Will Steger began exploring his neighborhood as a young child. When he was fifteen years old, he and his brother took a small boat from Minneapolis, down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and back. Will then began to explore even further from home, kayaking Arctic rivers and backpacking over Arctic tundra and mountain ranges.
In 1986 Will led the first confirmed unsupported dogsled expedition to the North Pole. In the years to follow, he completed the longest ever unresupplied dogsled expedition—a north to south traverse of Greenland. In 1991 he led an expedition crossing the continent of Antarctica, becoming the first to cross the continent.
In 2002 the Larsen Ice Shelf Will crossed during his Antarctic expedition collapsed into the ocean in an event that scientists link to global warming. This and other changes Will witnessed led him to create a not-for-profit foundation to help educate people about the rapid climate-related changes happening in polar regions.
Q (Climate Generation): You’ve been exploring the Arctic since the 1980’s. Have you seen any changes in the environment in the time that you’ve been traveling?
A (Will Steger): Yes, the changes have been dramatic. I’ve traveled on all the ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic and Antarctica. These ice shelves have disintegrated greatly. There has been a tremendous change in the sea ice on the Arctic Ocean. The pack ice has gone from being relatively stable to completely unreliable.
Q (CG): Have the changes affected your ability to travel on the Arctic Ocean?
A (WS): Yes, the Arctic Ocean has totally changed; you almost need floatation to cross now. Within 10 years it will be impossible to cross the Arctic Ocean with a dog team.
Q (CG): What impacts or what effects would you imagine a trend that continued in this direction would have on polar exploration?
A (WS): This changes everything. Ice on which we relied for travel is disappearing earlier and earlier each year; this makes it very difficult to travel.
Q (CG): What concerns you most about warming in the Arctic?
A (WS): The biggest concern right now is the rise of sea level. We are just starting to see these changes now. Along with the warming Arctic we are now starting to see thaws on ice caps for Greenland and Western Antarctica.
Q (CG): What influence or effect do you hope your expeditions will have?
A (WS): The biggest thing is to bring about awareness. These changes are going on without many witnesses. Many people don’t get to see these dramatic changes. We need to move people into action. Motivating people to make changes and take action is the biggest concern.
Q (CG): Are there lessons or inspirations individuals and communities can take from your experiences?
A (WS): I hope that we are setting the example to take action. The key is to motivate people to take action around solutions. The changes that are happening will affect everyone. We all need to act.