ANN BANCROFT (1955- )
Ann Bancroft is an American educator, explorer, environmentalist and leader, who is dedicated to inspiring women and girls to unleash the power of their dreams. She was the first woman to ski to both the North and South Pole and, along with Liv Arnesen, the first women to ski and sail across Antarctica’s landmass.
Ann Bancroft was born in Minnesota, USA and, apart from two years in Kenya, spent her childhood there. She graduated from University with a Physical Education degree, then worked as a physical educator and wilderness instructor.
In 1986, Bancroft left her teaching post to join the Will Steger International North Pole Expedition. The eight-member, 49-dog crew arrived at the North Pole after 56 days, having covered 1000 miles (1600 km) by dogsled, making Bancroft the first woman to reach the North Pole on foot and by sled. The team received no re-supplies and this accomplishment, the first confirmed trek to reach the North Pole without resupply, was deemed by National Geographic, “a landmark in polar exploration.”
In 1992, Bancroft led the first east to west crossing of Greenland and later that year, led the American Women’s Expedition (AWE) to the South Pole. The team of four women skied the 660 miles (1060 km) in 67 days, becoming the first all-female group to have reached the South Pole on foot. Bancroft became the first woman to have skied to both poles. Thousands of school children followed the AWE using curricula developed by the Ann Bancroft Foundation.
In 1998, Bancroft met Liv Arnesen, a Norwegian polar explorer and kindred spirit who shared her childhood dream of crossing Antarctica. In November 2000, the two flew to Blue 1 ice runway in Dronning Maud Land and set off on their 1,717-mile (2,747 km) trek. 94 days later, they became the first women in history to have sailed and skied across Antarctica’s landmass. Bancroft and Arnesen attempted an Arctic crossing in 2007, however the expedition was called off after Arnesen suffered frostbite due to extreme temperatures.
Bancroft aims to inspire women and girls to unleash the power of their dreams, through her various roles as an explorer, educator, speaker and philanthropist. She currently works with Wilderness Inquiry, an organization that helps disabled and able-bodied individuals enjoy the wilderness. She also co-owns an exploration company with Arnesen, that combines education with global expeditions.
Bancroft has been honored with numerous awards. She was named Glamour magazine’s “Woman of the Year” (2001); featured in the book Remarkable Women of the Twentieth Century (1998); was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame (1995); and was named Ms. magazine’s “Woman of the Year” (1987).
Photo: Ann Bancroft Foundation