Last year people around the world were able to watch on computer websites and through television news reports as a pair of women adventurers, American Ann Bancroft and Norwegian Liv Arnesen, skied across Antarctica. Now the pair is travelling by canoe, kayak and ore boats through the Great Lakes, which lie between the United States and Canada. Their journey began May 17. The two former teachers are hoping along the way to encourage children to pursue their dreams. When Tom Crosby caught up with them by phone on the water, Ann Bancroft gave us something of a fix on where they are in their journey.
Ann Bancroft: "We are just coming from Pelee Island, the largest island in Ontario, and we have been kayaking over there and we are taking the ferry back and we are going to work our way to the United States again, go through Customs and get back in our kayaks tomorrow morning."
Tom Crosby: "You have been kayaking, canoeing, ferrying - how physically are you holding up at this point?"
Ann Bancroft: "We are physically holding up just fine. This is a wild and zany trip, unlike anything we have ever done before, in that as we go through these communities the purpose of the journey is to really meet with people and continue that chat that we had a year and a half ago in Antarctica with so many people around the globe about dreams and what they want to do. So, in terms of the physical aspects of this trip, it's not that arduous."
Tom Crosby: "Liv, a year ago, when you were trekking through Antarctica, you did not see human beings. You are seeing a lot of human beings on this trip. Does it make a whole lot of difference?"
Liv Arnesen: "It is a huge difference, but it is great fun to meet the people - ome of the people actually wrote us on the Antarctica trip. And this Great Lake adventure is about meeting people. And we have several events along the way, all the way to the St. Lawrence River. So far it has been a great adventure."
Tom Crosby: "What have you learned so far?"
Liv Arnesen: "To me, I have never been in northern Minnesota before. Kayaking at Lake Superior was very new for me. I had anticipated, reading a lot about Lake Superior, how dangerous it could be. So it was a huge surprise that the lake was so nice and friendly to us. So that was a good experience. And I have mostly been in the big cities in the U.S., and we have been visiting many small places. And I learned that the United States is more a rural country actually than big cities. So that was a big learning for me."
Tom Crosby: "Ann, as you look out at what you are seeing along the way, is there anything that distresses you when you look at the ecology and the environment that you're passing by?"
Ann Bancroft: "Actually, it has been somewhat of the reverse. As we have traveled through communities along the lake, there is a real great feeling for the waterway that people are living on. And you are seeing a real surge of reestablishing the community around the water. It used to be all industry, and now you're seeing a real mix of that."
Tom Crosby: "Did you expect, though, to see some environmental damage and that sort of thing?"
Ann Bancroft: "To a certain extent, we knew we would, particularly when we were traveling on the ore boats. Because they dock on either end in a very industrial place, and so you do expect to see some sort of issues around that. But, really, I think I had painted a picture in my mind quite the contrary. So I have been really brightened by the efforts that are going on along this waterway to try to clean it up and really recognize the value which it has."
Tom Crosby: "Ann, you are how many days out now, and how many more days do you expect to be traveling?"
Ann Bancroft: "Well, that is a good question. I have not been keeping track about the days. We are about a third of the way. We are going to finish this trip at the end of June. We have got a ways yet. We have got to get to Cleveland here in the next couple of days, so we have to keep pushing on. And then we have to get ourselves up to Toronto as well, where we are going to have an event." "One of the things we are doing is trying to get people out on the water at some of these events. We are working with another organization, called Wilderness Inquiry, that is helping us by bringing in the Voyager canoes, which are big craft that can carry 15 people and you do not have to have any skill, to try and really get people appreciating the water. The best way to do that, I think, is to get them in a boat. And so the Voyager boats help us do that for an afternoon."
Tom Crosby: "Liv, of course the two of you traveled across Antarctica a year ago. I asked you at that time: Are you getting on each other's nerves yet? And now you are traveling together again. How are the two of you getting along?"
Liv Arnesen: "We are still friends. And on this trip we actually met a lot of other people. We have talked more with other people than with the two of us. So when we are also on the lake, we actually do not talk much. We are just kayaking, kayaking, and so on, on the lake, and let the hours run. So we are still good friends."