MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On July 27, 1989, six international explorers set out on a nearly 4,000 mile traverse of Antarctica. The polar pursuit called, the International Trans-Antarctica Expedition, was co-led by Minnesota explorer Will Steger.
"This whole western side of western Antarctica ice shelf will go into the ocean," Steger said.
The dogsled trip took 220 days to complete. Team members and their 36 dogs braved fierce winds, minus 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures and brutal snow storms.
"The purpose behind it was much greater than all of us together - so that's why we survived," Steger said.
The first ever non-mechanized trek across Antarctica was to bolster a 1960 International treaty that established the continent for scientific research. But that treaty contained no ban on mining. The expedition would pressure world leaders to add such a prohibition.
But in doing so they also focused the world's early attention to the perils of global climate change.
"We needed the science at that time. Of course we were aware of the signals of climate change which was happening, but we needed the science for proof for our policies and so forth," Steger said.
To this day Steger continues preaching to audiences about the ongoing damage caused by global warming, melting ice caps and rising oceans.
He somberly adds that 30 years after the history making expedition, miles of the very ice they traveled has vanished - melted away.
"We had crossed the Larson A, B and C ice shelfs. It took us a month to cross all three ice shelves," Steger said. "Now, A and B are gone and C is disintegrating."
Steger says international cooperation is the only way to reverse our course and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He remains hopeful that world pressures for change will prevail.
Still, Steger's concern is apparent.
"What's really alarming is the sea level rise and there's no denying where the water is coming from," Steger said. "It's Greenland and some from Antarctica and it's getting worse with time."
A sobering account from a seasoned explorer - who's seen the melting polar ice caps firsthand.
Steger will speak Saturday, November 16th at 7:00 p.m. at O'Shaughnessy in St. Paul. The music and climate change event called Band Together is an event to benefit Steger's Climate Generation.
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