Wilkins, Sir George Hubert, 1888–1958, British explorer, b. Australia. He made a number of trips to Antarctica and to the Arctic. Valuable experience gained when he accompanied Vilhjalmur Stefansson's expedition (1913–18) to the Arctic and Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition (1921–22) to Antarctica prepared Wilkins to assume the leadership in the following years of a number of polar expeditions. A pioneer in the method of air exploration, he was the first to fly (1928) from North America to the European polar regions, traveling from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitsbergen; his Flying the Arctic (1928) described his observations during the flights. He was knighted that year. He commanded an antarctic exploration (1928–29) when flights were made in the region of the Antarctic Peninsula, and in 1931 he headed a submarine expedition to the Arctic, an exploit depicted in his Under the North Pole (1931). Though mechanical difficulties made it impossible for his submarine, the Nautilus, to reach the North Pole, Wilkins's work was to be very valuable for future arctic exploration by submarine. From 1933 to 1939 he was manager for Lincoln Ellsworth's transantarctic expeditions. During World War II and afterward, Wilkins served as a geographer for the British army.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.