Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trans-Antarctica Expedition Reunites 20 Years Later



The Will Steger Foundation is celebrating the 20th Anniversary Reunion of Will Steger's Trans-Antarctica Expedition, December 10-11, 2010.

On March 3, 1990, a team of six men from six different countries and their 42 sled dogs completed the first-ever dogsled crossing of the Antarctic continent. The 1990 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition, led by Minnesotan Will Steger, travelled 3,741 miles in seven months, enduring temperatures as low as -54F and winds as high as 100 mph. In early December 2010, the team will gather for the first time in 20 years to reflect on their journey and its impact, felt around the world by both lawmakers and school children.

Public Events:

· FFree public forum – Perceptions from China and the US on Climate Change, featuring China team member and scientist, Dr. Qin Dahe and University of Minnesota’s Associate Professor Elizabeth Wilson. Dr. Qin Dahe is a well-known glaciologist, climatologist and a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as the former Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration. Details: Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Cowles Auditorium, December 10th, 7 pm.

· EExpedition Reunion Event - Team members representing France, UK, China, Japan, Russia and the US will share their stories and video clips from the expedition at a public event on Saturday, December 11th from 3-5 p.m. The event will be held at Anne Simley Theater at Hamline University, 1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul. Tickets are available at The North Face Stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The tickets are free; a donation of $5 for students and $10 for adults is suggested.

The landmark expedition could not be replicated today: not only have dogs been banned from Antarctica, but the Larsen A and B Ice Shelves, on which the team travelled for a month, no longer exist, its demise a major indication of the impacts of climate change.

The impacts the team has made on a global scale are monumental. Following the expedition, the team members met with the heads of state in France, China, Russia, Japan and the US, calling for the ratification of the 1961 Antarctic Treaty; the Treaty involves 39 countries that cooperatively manage Antarctica for scientific purposes only. The team and sled dog “Sam” met with President and Mrs. Bush at the White House on March 27, 1990. In 1991, the Treaty was ratified, protecting Antarctica from oil and mineral exploration and preserving it for science.

In 2007, team member Dr. Qin Dahe of China shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for his work on climate change. Dr. Qin’s scientific contributions were largely based on the ice core samples he took across the entire Antarctic continent during the expedition. Frenchman Jean-Louis Etienne and Minnesotan Will Steger both have committed themselves to raise awareness about climate change, informing citizens through expeditions and public speaking on how they can make a difference. Locally, Will Steger established the Will Steger Foundation to educate, inspire, and empower people to engage in climate change solutions. UK team member Geoff Somers has worked with numerous polar expeditions and lectured widely. Dr. Victor Boyarsky of Russia heads the Arctic and Antarctic Museum in St. Petersburg and has led numerous expeditions in the Arctic. Japanese team member Keizo Funatsu runs Silver Cloud Kennel in Alaska and has competed several times in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

As a result of the success of the expedition’s adventure learning program, Hamline University launched the Center for Global Environmental Education, to create environmental education programs for K-12 teachers. Leading up to and following the expedition, Hamline hosted a series of summer institutes for teachers, bringing together leading Antarctic scientists with K-12 educators from around the world. The expedition packed its gear on the campus during the third annual Antarctic Institute.

“The expedition literally changed the direction of my life, my teaching and in many cases the lives of my students,” explains Louise Huffman, a teacher from Naperville, Illinois, who attended the Antarctic Institutes. “Today, I would not be leading the educational outreach efforts of a huge international science project if I had not been so turned on by polar science 20 years ago. Six young women who were in my classes in 1989 and 1990 have gone on to get PhDs in science! The changes brought by this project have far-reaching affects.

The educational program, which relied on the early computer networks of Prodigy, CompuServe, Minitel and Apple (as the internet was not yet available to the public), reached 25 million children worldwide. The team received letters, poems, essays, handmade books and drawings from schools around the world, including rural communities in China and even the Australian Outback.

“Wherever I go,” explained Will Steger, “I meet people who were affected by the expedition. Many of them followed the expedition in elementary school. Now that they are parents, they are teaching their children about global cooperation and the importance of working together to solve problems like global climate change.”

The expedition was the focus of four hour-long ABC-TV specials which won the station a National Sports Emmy Award. It was featured in the November 1990 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Jazz great Grover Washington wrote a song and dedicated his 1990 national concert tour to the expedition, called Protecting the Dream. Major sponsors Target Stores, The North Face and Gore-Tex launched an expedition exhibit in an 18-wheeled truck that travelled the country, providing armchair explorers a “vicarious” experience.

# # #

Hamline University is located at 1536 Hewitt Avenue in St. Paul. Lot parking is free on Saturdays. For a campus map, visit www.hamline.edu

1 comment:

  1. if any one has any of the above jackets for sale any 1990-1991 transantarctica expedition u.a.p north face jacket or pullover version like the ones pictured above for sale please contact me at
    didihiggins@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete