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Polar Exploration: Ralph Plaisted, Will Steger, & Ann Bancroft: Overview

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Four to the Pole!: The American Women's Expedition to Antarctica, 1992-93, by Nancy Loewen and Ann Bancroft.
MNHS call number: G 850 1992 .A43 A44 2001

North to the Pole, by Will Steger, with Paul Schurke.
MNHS call number: G 630 .A5 S73 1987

Plaisted Polar Expedition Papers.
Newspaper clippings and other papers related to two snowmobile expeditions from northern Canada to the North Pole organized by Ralph Plaisted.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (P1990)

Trans-Antarctica Expedition Records.
Papers detailing a dogsled expedition to the Antarctic region (August 1989-March 1990) led by Will Steger of Ely, Minnesota.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (International Polar Expeditions, Inc.). 


During the 20th century the Arctic and Antarctic, the last remaining unexplored expanses of the globe, attracted adventurers and scientists alike. Using dog sleds and sledge hauling in 1908, Frederick Cook made the first U.S. claim for having reached the North Pole.

Others from the U.S. and other countries soon followed. Explorers of the Antarctic, in search of the geographic and magnetic poles, included, among others, Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Douglas Mawson, and Roald Amundsen and their teams.

Beginning in 1968, the first of several teams of Minnesotans joined the quest when a group of four, led by Ralph Plaisted, held the world's interest as they journeyed to the North Pole. Using aircraft and snowmobiles, they were the first mechanized overland attempt to reach the Pole.

In 1986, in a dog-sled expedition, Will Steger of Ely, Minnesota, and his team of four, including a woman—Ann Bancroft of Scandia, Minnesota—reached the North Pole sledge hauling.

In 1993, Ann Bancroft, recognized as the first known woman to reach the North Pole, led a four-women group, the American Women's Expedition (AWE), in reaching the South Pole on foot, an historic achievement that won for her the distinction of being the first known woman to have reached both Poles.

In 2001, she made history once again when she and Liv Arnesen of Norway became the first women to cross Antarctica.

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Guide Author

Revised by Katie Jean Davey
Reference Librarian

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