EMBARKS ON ARCTIC WARMING 2007
A Call to Action.
For more than 20 years, world-renowned polar explorers and educators , Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen have made history and inspired millions skiing and ski-sailing over ice in the extreme cold of the Arctic and Antarctic regions. But March, 2007, they set out on a new expedition across the Arctic Ocean, their primary goal was not to make history, but to change the future. Bancroft and Arnesen set forth to use their 75-day journey to raise awareness among kids on global warming’s impact on the fragile Arctic, and – in particular – help young people understand how they can help prevent further climate change.
While temperatures worldwide are increasing as a result of global warming, they’re rising twice as fast in the Arctic. Polar bears face extinction. Ice is turning to sea. Permafrost is melting. Coastlines are eroding. Because global warming impacts the polar regions first and most dramatically, the changes in the Arctic are a lens into what the rest of the world may experience in the future, unless changes are made swiftly.
With “Explore Arctic Warming 2007”, Bancroft (51, Scandia, Minn.) and Arnesen (53, Oslo, Norway) began a grueling 530-mile journey from Canada’s Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole, traveling on foot, towing sleds and planning to occasionally swim – beginning during a season when the sun barely rises above the horizon. From there, Bancroft and Arnesen planned to ski another two weeks to the TARA, a French research vessel drifting in the Arctic pack ice.
As in past expeditions, they communicated with classrooms worldwide, only this time with improved technology. The women distributed daily audio messages and provided photos from the Arctic on their Web site for teachers and students to follow, providing a rare first-hand, real-time account of the changing Arctic. Bancroft, who 20 years prior became the first known woman to cross the ice to the North Pole, had an especially unique perspective on the changes in the Arctic that few in the world can provide. The Web site (www.bancroftarnesenexplore.com) featured helpful tips for students and people of all ages to take action against global warming.
Unfortunately, on March 12, not even a week into the expedition, Bancroft and Arnesen were evacuated from the Arctic Ocean. Arnesen had to repair a binding on her snowshoe, which was damaged when their equipment was hit by an out-of-control airplane before leaving Ward Hunt Island. She had to make a strap around her left foot to secure the snowshoe. That makeshift binding coupled with temperatures in excess of 76 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, negative 60 degrees Celsius, aided Liv’s injury which she kept a close eye on as they continued their travel. Once the decision was made to evacuate, the women walked a day and a half back to Ward Hunt Island where a plane could evacuate them from the ice. If they would have continued on for another week, it would have been impossible to get picked up. Liv ended up losing the tip of her big toe due to the frostbite injury.
Had Bancroft and Arnesen completed their Explore Arctic Warming 2007 in mid-May and board TARA as planned – they would have become the first women to travel without re-supply to both the North and South Poles. Both are familiar with such firsts. In 2001, they captivated millions of people worldwide as they fulfilled their childhood dream and became the first women to ski across Antarctica. In 1993, Bancroft led the first women’s expedition to the South Pole and in 1994 Arnesen became the first woman to ski solo to the South Pole.
When: Bancroft and Arnesen departed Canada’s Ward Hunt Island in early March, marking the beginning of International Polar Year. They expected to arrive in late April – about 60 days later – at the North Pole. From there, they would ski to TARA – a French research vessel drifting in the Arctic pack ice – for their return home in mid-May.
How: The women traveled by foot, towing sleds. They also brought special swim-gear to pass through bodies of water created in part by the warming climate.
Conditions: Often, lows can be around -70 Fahrenheit. Daytime light is typically twilight, as the sun barely rises above the horizon for the first couple weeks. As they work North, the sunlight increases.
Route: First stage is Canada’s Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole, where they will re-supply. From there, they would ski approximately two weeks to TARA, which was drifting in the Arctic.
Web: www.YOUREXPEDITION.com, featured a variety of kids’ activities, including:
measuring your carbon footprint
weekly educational themes
weekly Net meetings with scientists
opportunities to send messages to Bancroft and Arnesen via the website