Dr. John C. Behrendt made his first trip to Antarctica in 1956 as a graduate student “assistant seismologist” in the International Geophysical Year (IGY), where he wintered over at Ellsworth Station and participated in the Filchner Ice Shelf Traverse in 1957-58. Behrendt has continued his work in Antarctica on 12 additional trips, most recently in 2003, making him one of 2-3 people who have worked in the U.S. Program in Antarctica in six successive decades. In 1961-62 he led the Antarctic Peninsula Traverse; the Behrendt Mountains in Ellsworth Land were named as a result of this expedition. He has also participated in six research cruises in the Weddell and Ross Seas in Antarctica. As a result of his Antarctic research, Behrendt was active as a member of the U.S. Delegation to 22 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings from 1977-1995. In this role, he was a scientific advisor on negotiation of the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty.
In 1992 he received the Department of Interior Meritorious Service Award for outstanding research in Atlantic Margin Geophysics; Charleston Earthquake Studies; Great Lakes seismic reflection investigations; and Antarctic scientific research. He was awarded the first Felice Ippolito Gold Medal for his Antarctic research by the Italian Antarctic Research Program and the Academia Nazionale dei Linceia in 1999.
In 2003 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “distinguished contributions to the understanding of crustal controls on the Antarctic Ice Sheet and for efforts to protect and manage Antarctica for the scientific benefit of all nations.” He is also a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Explorers Club, and a member of the American Geophysical Union, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Antarctican Society, and the New Zealand Antarctic Society. Behrendt was President of American Polar Society, from 2007-2010. Behrendt is a Fellow Emeritus at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he is working on geophysical evidence for subglacial and submarine late Cenozoic volcanism beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. He is also a scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey where he worked for 31 years.
In addition to Antarctica, Behrendt carried out geophysical investigations in West Africa, the Atlantic continental margin of the U.S. and the Rocky Mountains. Behrendt’s first book: Innocents on The Ice: A Memoir of Antarctic Exploration, 1957 won the Colorado Book Award for non-fiction in 1999. His second book, The Ninth Circle: A Memoir of Life and Death in Antarctica, 1960-1962 was published in 2005.