December 6, 1938: Death of Duluth native and arctic explorer Jack O’Brien

On this day in 1938, Duluth native and arctic explorer and author Jack O’Brien died in New York City. O’Brien was born to Irish immigrants in Duluth in 1897 and attended Central High School, where he played football and earned the accolades “Kingpin of the backfield and tower of defense; a line hitter par excellence.” He also played baseball and basketball and after high school joined the Duluth Boat Club’s celebrated rowing team. He served in World War I, afterwards relocating in Minneapolis in the wake of his father’s death. He bounced around until 1928, when he was selected to be one of the surveyors for Admiral Richard Byrd’s expedition to Antarctica. (A mountain on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf was later named O’Brien Peak.) O’Brien later wrote about the trip in his 1931 young-adult book, By Dog Sled for Byrd: 1,600 Miles Across Antarctic Ice, after which he wrote adventure books for young people with stories of sled dogs and trips in the north country. You can discover much more about O’Brien here.

Jack O’Brien. (Duluth Public Library)

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