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Paving the Way on the Antarctic Ice
By Marisa Helms, Minnesota Public Radio
March 16, 2001
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Antarctic explorers Liv Arnesen (left) and Ann Bancroft (right) are the first women to ski across Antarctica.
Antarctic explorers Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen are back in Minnesota. Bancroft, a Minnesotan, and Arnesen, a Norwegian, made history last month when they became the first women to ski across Antarctica. Hundreds of fans greeted the women at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport with banners, flowers, and lots of requests for autographs.

IT WAS A HOMECOMING suitable for movie stars and heros; hundreds of admirers, and lots of bursting flash-bulbs.

The welcome-home crowd was filled with schoolchildren, many of whom took part in the expedition virtually, by logging on to the team's Internet site. Millions of children around the world did the same, and a little bit more.

Girl Scouts Laura Schmidts, Michelle Lingscheit, and Mary Lissy from Braham spent one cold night last January in a tent just to get an idea of what it takes to be like Bancroft and Arnesen braving Arctic winds.

The girls say they think it would be fun one day to cross Antarctica, because then, they say, "a lot of people would look up to you."

Explorer Ann Bancroft says the biggest accomplishment of the trip was being able to touch and inspire so many kids. She says knowing they were out there pulled both women through some tough days on the ice.

Bancroft describes one particularly dark day toward the end of the journey. They were both feeling disappointed about coming up shy of where they wanted to be. That same day, they spoke with 48 schoolchildren from Faribault by satellite.

"What did us in, I think, is when they independently came up to the phone and spoke into that little box, and talked about the impact of following our trip and how it inspired their dreams," she said. "It was very powerful to have young people be so articulate about their challenges and their dreams, and it really affected us deeply."

Many who came out to greet the explorers spoke of the great impact for all children, but especially little girls. One mother said she was happy to see her daughter interested in other female role models besides Barbie.

As expedition fan, Gerry Bendicksen, from Eagan said Bancroft and Arnesen's journey is proof that they are paving the way for women, and a tribute to women's potential.

"To the ability of women in today's society and to show we do have many talents that aren't acknowledged," he said.

Explorer Ann Bancroft says while the two women may return to Antarctica, it will be in a different capacity. She says their attentions will now turn to future projects that include supporting other women in their endeavors.

The expedition Web site won't disappear just because the trip is over. She says it will be a place for people to share travel ideas, dreams, and information about how to launch their own expedition.