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Polar adventure

April 6, 2009

‘Lofty’ is just a word to crush

For as far as the eye-can see white follows the landscape, lightly bleeding into a calm blue sky. Wind can make or break success and even determine survival here. There are no animals and the conditions often make any adventure silent amongst its travelers. This is Antarctica and in 2001 Liv Arnesen, from Norway, and Ann Bancroft, from Minnesota, became the first women to make the trip across the continent through the South Pole. On March 31, the adventurous duo and educators came to PLU to share their previous conquest and the next chapter of polar expeditions when they will take a team of women from each continent across Antarctica in 2011 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s “First-to-the-South-Pole” feat in 1911.

Their fondness for polar adventures started as young girls, separated by an ocean and growing up in different countries. Although they would not meet until their 40s, the two shared a passion for dreaming big. They were not going to let “you can’t do that because your girls” dictate the lives they would lead.

“I didn’t realize there was something wrong about dreaming, as a girl, about the South Pole.” Arnesen said.

Those South Pole dreams wouldn’t happen over night. But to date each has broken through those old “girls can’t do that” mantra again and again. Books kept their minds on the ice; they followed many of the same literary adventures. And they shared like families who dared them to spread their wings.

“So we could keep these dreams alive,” Bancroft said. “Sometimes quietly alive, but alive.”

“Sometimes dreams take a long time to get to,” she added.

When they became adults, they each started out on their own glacial expeditions, but the similarity of their passions would connect the two.

“The ice introduced us,” Bancroft said.

Sharing that passion of daring-to-dream and sharing it with the world is part of the driving force for their expeditions. In the 2001 trek the two were followed by about 3 million school children around the world. It’s another connecting point for Arnesen and Bancroft – education.

“It wasn’t just about skiing. It was about getting 3 million school children to realize their dreams and the possibilities of those dreams,” Bancroft said.

For their 2011 trek, the goal is to connect with even more children – 50 million of them.

“We’re trying to be very lofty and bold,” Bancrof said. “Like our other expeditions they’re really just spark plugs.” Spark plugs for creating dialogue about bigger questions and creating a global discussion about the challenges the environment faces.

It’s one of the reasons Arnesen and Bancroft came to PLU to share their dream.

“At PLU we’re surrounded by big thinkers and big dreamers,” Bancroft said.