women in aviation and space history

Osa Johnson

Osa Johnson
NASM-83-3796
National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Osa Johnson

Golden Age of Flight (105)

In the 1930s, when the last unexplored regions of the world were being "found," Martin and Osa Johnson delighted audiences in theaters with films of their aerial safaris throughout Africa and Borneo. Both pilots and photographers, the Johnsons explored Kenya and Tanganyika in 1933, taking the first aerial photograph of Mt. Kilimanjaro and documenting herds of wild animals on the Serengeti Plain. Their expedition flew two Sikorsky amphibians, the twin-engine S-38C Osa's Ark, painted in zebra stripes, and the single engine S-39B Spirit of Africa (and later Borneo), sporting giraffe spots. These planes allowed them to land on backcountry rivers, lakes, and plains to meet native tribes and move efficiently around 96,560 kilometers (60,000 miles) of bush country. They also photographed the Valley of the Kings and the pyramids in Egypt for audiences back home. In 1935, they explored the interior of Borneo and released aerial footage of the previously undocumented island.

(information compiled by D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez)