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Will Steger, Peter Breslow  

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Arctic expeditions discussion.  

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Personal history discussion.  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
1 Apr 1997

    Geography
  • United States
    Minnesota
    St. Louis County
    Locality
  • Steger Homestead
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  • 48.0875897   -91.7262268
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  • Decoded MS stereo

NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS WILL STEGER WITH PETER BRESLOW APRIL 1997
DAT 2
00:017 Will talking about photos on the wall: Nansen, a Norweigan explorer, Perry and Scott Amonsen -very few photos -mostly drawings
WS -to me they show the essence of what arctic exploration really is. you know just the flag marking the top of the world could be anywhere; the men in the tents in the storms, hauling the sled....breaking up a dog fight, which is pretty much expected when you are traveling with dogs ...nansen, stopping by his dogs who are exhausted, reflecting on his life. this is probably one of my favorite ones, nansen yohansen who left the ship and drifted across the ice in 1893 to '95 and they left the ship in '95 two years after drifting to try to reach the poles by sleds bc the ship wasn't going to drift over the top .... this scene here is when they first spotted the water near the coast. there is a picture of perry and hanson and derek and the eskimos there crossing a lead the one next to that is a picture of us crossing a lead, almost identical. and the 3 pics there are the 3 teams that i have lead in the last 10 years:the 1986 unsupported to the pole; and the 1990 trans-antarctica; and in 1995 crossing the arctic ocean, and the other 2 pics are the parades when we come back to ely. a parade in ely is always something very special to me. i love the town and the people here are always so good. in the parades we always have cars and the dogs are a part of the parade and it is a very special time for them. i am holding up my lead dog here .... you think about the parade when you are out there a lot. it is always in july when it is nice and warm and things are easy.
3:09 PB -so when you are out on the ice like perry and those guys, is it basically pretty much the same thing? i mean you do have your high tech clothing that is wicking away moisture and you do have some special gear. does it kind of come down to the same thing?
3:33 ws the conditions are the same. when we were in antarctica and got stuck in the stor.ms it was still antarctica in a stor.m. the colling has changed a little bit, the sleds and dogs are about the same, the food is maybe a little bit more advanced. what has changed is your contact of either radio, satellite or airplane, and depending on how supported you are the degree in which you are supported by outside influences how this is what deter.mines how far away you are from the turn of the century. but what unique about the turn of the century is that they had the adventure of real exploration of the unknown and that would be just incredible to experience that. that in itself you have to
factor as a motivator of reaching the pole or of not knowing what is at the north pole and actually getting there. that type of exploration is something you really can't duplicate bc the world has really shrunk in the last 75 to 80 years. 4:36
4:43 PB -are you envious at all of those guys who lived at that time and really knowing that in this modern era you really can't do what they did.
4:53 WS -i am not envious of the earlier explorers but i have a great deal of respect for them, bc i think i understand a lot of what they did. i like living right here in 1997 with the access that i have. in a way for me the exploration is still there. we have more tools to explore and follow our curiosity and for myself this summer getting off the russian ice-breaker at the north pole july 12 -that's a total unknown. almost a total unknown, since no one has ever traveled then. i have a strategy and a plan dy out and i hope it matches what is really out there. but there is still unknown left, but nothing at all like at the turn of the century. 5:38
5:39 PB -but it seems like it is getting harder and harder to find the first this -reinhold mesner not using 02. it just seems like there is nothing -you have to asses handicaps now bc everything has sort of been done and the only way to redo something differently is to find some little way to do ¬
WS -it is stretched out so far now it is almost kind of a game, but you have to look at it in your own mind -a person could go to the boundary waters which is just north from here, and it could be the greatest experience of their life and for them that's real adventure. for myself, the new purpose in what i do at least is education, is the ability to use your adventure in what you are seeing as a spark in an educational program. and all along traveling of all the sites and beautiful scenes and experiences i have had always had wished there was some way for me to share these. i could document it in my journal but i knew when i wrote it in my journal nobody would ever probably read this or be able to share this moment. but now i am able to do that through telecommunications. that really truthfully is the reason i've stayed in exploration. i was going to retire out after the antarctica in 1990 when we stumbled upon the technology and the possibilities here of doing the educational programs. so i see for adventure there is new purpose in education. i think people struggle -they can't say i am doing this bc i love to do it. that doesn't answer the question why -actually it answers it (7) we do it bc we do it and we like doing it. and so people struggle with a purpose. it is the first to do this backwards or whatever -but to me education is the new purpose. it is a reason of giving that purpose and fulfilling the energy and costs and the sacrifices that you do to go out on an expedition. 7:42
7:50 putting the oatmeal in..... .
8:10 WS -you know just working out here hauling wood is fine, but i need some real experience where i am hauling 8, 12 hours a day, continually to get confidence that i am in good enough shape. my biggest concern is actually getting dropped off at the north pole bc in -i look at -i have several major sponsors -shakley and natl geo that invested $$ ........but if something happened to me now? . ... always a lot of risks ......once i am dropped off by the ship i am there and from there on i have to deal. and the question came up yesterday which usually comes right before an expedition is ok, what happens if you get hurt or youget rescued or if there is a problem? well, if you are on¬line and if there are problems, that is part of the problem. we had some very serious problems 2 years ago ..... ice broke up on us ...but on-line we kept it up with the students -how we were feeling when we were down and that we were disappointed....and that turned out to be a very valuable part of the program -when we crossed the arctic ocean in '95 10:24 my challenge in the education on the writing side is to be as honest as i can not to hold back. if you are feeling lousy or if you have certain feelings, or if they are really personal feelings to share those on the education program (bg: loud clunk!) bc i find that all you have to do is to be honest as to what you are experiencing. people relate to that -they relate to the honesty. 10:48
10:53-AMBI fussing around with something
11:13 PB -so if you are camped out in the arctic ocean -is it just luck that the ice might break up under you or not? or can youtell?
11:26 WS -no there is a bit of luck involved always in the arctic ocean. but you can tell where the ice is secure. it is called old ice -ice that has been on the arctic ocean for several years. ice, keep in mind, is always moving, and eventually after 3 or 4 or 5 years it flushes out into the greenland sea. but there is a lot of ice that is old ice that is 10, 15 feet thick and you can tell that real easily bc the surface is a real hummucky surface where you have pressure ridges that have melted down. so you always camp on old ice. the new ice is very flat but thin, thin maybe a yard, 2 or 3 feet thick. that ice could break up instantly. so you just plan to sleep on old ice. if there is a lot of ice activity you can tell and then you have to be alert but the scariest part is if it cracks just totally out of the blue, and that happened to us in 1995, when we were crossing with dogs. it was a beautiful day, just like today but 30 degrees and clear. we just set up camp ...and all of the sudden ....12:42 they noticed Julian Martin's tent they heard their sled staring to move sideways and they looked out and a crack had split right btwn the dog team. the dogs were staked on one side to the sled and another side to a post and as the crack
started moving they started pulling the sled towards the open water. and there are a couple of dogs dangling on the line right over the water and we got out there ...and it was no problem, but the scary thing about that was it was absolutely no warning. we always analyze a situation like that -what went wrong ....but there was no sound, it just silently went loose, and if something like that happens to me when i am in the tent sleeping alone it is a serious problem. but when i sleep at night i always have most of my gear already packed in the canoe, and everything that is in the tent is water-proofed and packed away, so if i do go in
the water i only have my sleeping bag and myself to deal with but if you have valuable gear, keep in mind when you are soloing, every ounce everything you have really counts. if your computer and your telecommunications systems fall in a disappear it is a real problem.
14:04 PB -so what did you do when that fissure opened up -and youhave the dogs on one side and it is getting wider and wider i presume ...
WS -martin jumped on the otherside ...and then undid the tension on the line. first pulled the dogs off
PB -but how do you get back and forth? isn't it too wide?
14:33 WS -it was at that point maybe 4 or 5 feet were the dogs were, but 100 feet down it narrowed down to a point where you could jump.
14:44 pb -and do you have just a matter of mins until that narrower spot widens up to or you have an hour or something?
WS -usually ice moves pretty slow, usually if you are on your
feet any type of ice movt you can walk away from it, at a
leisurely pace if things start to get going. but if you are
sleeping in a tent and camped, especially if your dogs are
pitched down on the ice and it cracks slow motion is still a

that i had. i had some dates left over -this is farina ... i am always trying to mask the taste of oatmeal a little bit .... (ambi; walking around house ...rustling of bags)
16:17 PB -and is this just a concoction that you have figured ou over the years?
WS -yeah, it is mainly just oatmeal with a few dates and a little coconut thrown in ... i try to eat just basic -a
carbohydrate breakfast -a lighter breakfast and then i will eat
a bigger lunch... i will let the boil there for a bit
16:40-17:01 ambi: WS walking around house, making breakfast
UNDECODED MS 17:26-19:27AMBI: outside cabin, snow melt coming off roof into a bucket (some wind in bg)
19:40-20:30 (NG -too windy) AMBI more distant water from porch, wind in bg
20:38-21:10 (NG -too windy) wind in the trees, looking east from the porch
21:11 AMBI: duck in bg, wind in trees -big gusts of wind -TOO much wind on mic
22:22-29:27 AMBI -more wind (some faint talking in bg) **24:08 -GOOD birds 25:33 -someone puts shovel in ground? .. . Flawn walks off .....faint birds, 27:24 bird... 28:27 Flawn walks back
29:28-30:42 AMBI next to the shed -water dripping, wind,
30:45 -31:27 AMBI WITH WIND JAMMER -water dripping, some movement in bg,
31:31 (going back inside) ...Elsa talking...will eating ....
33:18 WS -...big family, but our parents allowed us to do what we wanted to do, they didn't put restrictions on me .. .mymy parents didn't push anything on us, they just allowed us to do what we wanted to do. iwas interested always in the wilderness. i was interested in the wilderness and teaching, combination of the 2. got my degrees in education. and when i moved to ely here in 1970 i worked at outward bound for 2 years. that fo me was a real eye opener ...it put education and outdoor together. i
had never seen that -outdoor ed. like that. that inspired me to do the school here and just continue, but it was the parents that just allowed us to do what we wanted to do
34:28 PB -so you had your own sort of wilderness school?
WS -yes, i did here for about 12 years. that was my livlehood, the way i supported myself here and i worked december through april running 14 to 16 groups a winter ...a lot of them were colleges, physical handicaps, mens groups, womens groups, a lot of them were chemical dependcy groups i the late '70s. and with the dogs -the dogs gave us a means to making a living and also with the school -with the dogs i was able to bring in the supplies into this remote area. and then i branched off -once i got a good dog team together i started taking expeditions up to the arctic again. i used to kayak a lot in that area, but i always wanted to return in the wintertime and the dogs were a means of getting into the real remote wilderness. for a very long time in the early '80s i did very long trips, but never publicized them. actually ...did a few interviews with NPR ...but 1986 was my first really big publicized expedition. and soon after that i discovered the on-line or telecommunications possibilities so i actually started approaching my explorations and adventures in an educationally way -of using that adventure to educate people and draw them into the online programs ....36:09
PB -Noah interviewed you on the Nome ..... .
36:17 WS -N. Adams interviewed me '85 -i traveled from Ely, N this point here to Point Barrow, Alaska -about 5000 on a small little expedition. once in a while i would reach a remote inuit village with a sat phone and i would call noah to see what was happening in the outside world and we would do an interview. i remember some of the evenings i would all it was 50, 60 below outside, really beautiful, pretty beautiful.
37:01 WS -almost time here to get the day rolling. i don't have much work on the desk this morning so it is going to be easier 37:07-37:15 Will eating
37:16 WS -before i start here -in a few mins i will collect some ice up here fro our ice reserve for the water ....
he has had other press people -but no radiO (video, tv, newspaper)
38:05 PB -so how long has it been just the 2 of you -or just you up here and everyone is gone. quiet.
WS -it has just been since last winter ... i was here in a self¬sufficient lifestyle for about 12 years. from 70 to 1182. then it was almost 12, 13 year that i ran with the big groups, the expeditions based here. it is in kind of a third stage where it is a lot quieter. the dogs aren't around, except for those 2 puppies ....giving up the dogs was a big decision, but a decision i was really glad to do. i had become really good at dog sledding, i had perfected it and but is was just for myself to take a right hand turn and try something different and it was rather abrupt. at the end of the expedition i gave all my dogs away, sold all my equipment. i don't even have a dog collar around here or a harness. and i can't say i really miss the dogs. i did it to the hilt, and i really enjoyed it and it got big and complicate and i even enjoyed that, but the time came to do something different. i miss the howling at night, but the responsibility to support the howling ...LAUGHTER ... 39:55 almost
...
done! -eating his oatmeal ....
41:33-43:20 AMBI -footsteps in the cabin (Will walking around in his slippers)
43:25-43:53 AMBI -outside
44:03 -AMBi -outside -very windy...WOLVES! (but NG) dripping of water 45:09 -gun shot? thunder? 46:26 -dripping water ...
46:47 -very faint wolves, wind and dripping 47:19 -faint wolves
48:37 -faint wolves
51:14 END OF DAT

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