As young girls living an ocean apart, American Ann Bancroft and Norwegian Liv Arnesen read Alfred Lansing's book, Endurance, chronicling Sir Ernest Shackleton's legendary attempt to cross Antarctica - and despite being completely unaware of one another, each declared the same childhood dream: to ski across Antarctica. In 1998, the women met for the first time, realized their kindred spirit, and formed the company yourexpedition to plan and promote the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition.
On November 13, 2000, the explorers landed on Antarctica with the intent to cross the continent's landmass, as well as the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating slab of ice the size of France. Delayed by unusually calm conditions and occasional blizzards, Bancroft and Arnesen made history by becoming the first women to cross Antarctica's landmass on February 11, 2001, but were held back from crossing the shelf by the impending winter.
On March 12, 2001, Bancroft and Arnesen announced the formation of Bancroft Arnesen Explore, a set of programs dedicated to seeking out, promoting and celebrating women's and young girls' achievements in exploration. Bancroft Arnesen Explore will consist of an expedition series; endorsed expeditions; web and education programs; lectures and presentations, and a promotion featuring Get Real Girl dolls and accessories.
Ann Bancroft had already made a name for herself in the world of polar exploration before her recent achievement as part of the Bancroft Arnesen Expedition, in which she and Liv Arnesen became the first two women to cross the Antarctic land- mass on skis - she is the first woman to cross the ice by land to both the North and South Poles. Northward, in 1986 she was the only female member of the I000-mile Steger International Polar Expedition by dogsled - and in 1993 she led the four-woman, 660-mile American Women's Expedition to the South Pole.
The more temperate climate of her native Minnesota provided the setting for Bancroft's first expeditions - camping and canoeing trips and backyard winter adventures as a child. She eventually left the state to earn a degree in physical education, but returned to teach and coach in Minneapolis. Even though retired from the traditional classroom, Bancroft taught three million elementary students around the world during the Expedition via an innovative cyber classroom located at www.yourexpedition.com. The curriculum included such subjects as science, nutrition, history and geography - but perhaps the greatest lessons dealt with the virtues of human courage and determination.
Off the ice, Bancroft leads the Ann Bancroft Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded to celebrate existing and potential achievements of women and girls - and is an instructor for Wilderness Inquiry, which helps disabled and able-bodied individuals enjoy the wilderness year round. A sought-after speaker, she is now an author, too, having recently published her first book, Four to the Pole, which addresses the lesser-told emotional aspects of extreme physical journey.
Bancroft is planning her next adventure from her home in Scandia, Minnesota.