A formidable voice calling for understanding and the preservation of the Arctic, and the Earth, Will Steger is best known for his legendary polar explorations. He has traveled tens of thousands of miles by kayak and dogsled over 50 years, leading teams on some of the most significant polar expeditions in history.
Steger led the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply in 1986, the 1,600-mile south-north traverse of Greenland (the longest unsupported dogsled expedition in history) in 1988, and led the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica (the historic seven month, 3,741-mile International Trans-Antarctica Expedition) in 1989–90.
Learn more about each expedition by following the links below.
The departure point of this year’s solo will be 150 travel-miles northeast of Ely, Minnesota, in northwestern Ontario. I’ll start at Burchell Lake, the headwaters of the Waweag River. It features small creeks and streams that gradually increase in volume as the Waweag flows into Kawnipi Lake in the northeast sector of Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park.
I chose this route because it offers the greatest challenge and the best opportunity to build new skills. The spring thaw appears to be under way in the North, which makes these rivers quite dangerous. They present a combination of thin, unpredictable ice with flowing current underneath. I expect the first part of the expedition to be slow and tedious.
Once on Kawnipi, my route will take me over rivers and lakes as they begin break-up. I expect to return to my cabin north of Ely around April 10th.
You can follow this year’s adventure with me at this link. Each night, I’ll transmit reports via satellite phone and share my present location on Google maps. There will be a lot of unknowns along the way. I look forward to checking in with you.
This year I am expanding on what I learned from my two previous expeditions of traveling on rivers at spring break up. I have doubled the distance I will be traveling and have moved my starting point to Northwestern Ontario, about 300 travel miles north of the Steger Wilderness Center. On the morning of March 7th, I will be boarding the Canadian Railroad (as a passenger) at the small village of Savant Lake, Ontario. The train will take me an hour to the east and drop me off at the bridge that crosses the Allan Water River. From there I will make my way south first by toboggan and then, as the ice begins to break up, by canoe sled.
Expeditions are where I get a lot of my vision and my energy. Expedition thinking is central to the thinking and work of the Will Steger Wilderness Center I’ve been building in Ely, MN for the past 25 years. Because expedition thinking can help us address many of the serious challenges facing us.
I will share my experiences along the way during my Solo 2015 Expedition. This expedition takes place during the Spring ice-melt which creates treacherous conditions requiring 100% of my focus. That right there is a big part of the benefit of wilderness expeditions; you are not just in nature, your are part of it.
On March 3, 1990, a team of six men from six different countries and their 42 sled dogs completed the first-ever dogsled crossing of the Antarctic continent. Will Steger led this expedition, travelling 3,741 miles in seven months, enduring temperatures as low as -54F and winds as high as 100 mph. Following the expedition, the team members met with heads of state in France, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S. calling for the ratification of the 1961 Antarctic Treaty. The Treaty was ratified in 1991, protecting Antarctica from oil and mineral exploration and preserving it for science.
The landmark expedition could not be replicated today: not only have dogs been banned from Antarctica, but the Larsen A and B Ice Shelves, on which the team travelled for a month, no longer exist, its demise a major indication of the impacts of climate change.
In March and April of 2014, Steger traveled from the northern border of Quetico Provincial Park in Canada and walked home to Ely. Hauling a canoe over the ice and paddling the open rivers, Will traveled through waist deep snow during the spring melt and ice break-up.