Polar explorer Will Stiger tracks inspiration on a 30-year career in awareness raising Climate change To meet a chance in the middle of nowhere. It was 1986, and the Minnesota-born activist was part of a team that crosses the border North Pole On the First unsupported expedition To the North Pole.
“I was sledding on my dog, and for no reason they sled properly,” said Stiger, now 76. “Suddenly there was a man right in front of us.”
Jean-Louis Etienne, a French physician stalking his expedition mentor – was the first person to reach the North Pole alone. That night, the explorers sat together in a tent and dreamed of International mission across Antarctica.
“It was the most influential expedition of my life,” says Steiger.
It has inspired dozens of expeditions, many of them solo, and decades of work to raise awareness about polar issues, particularly the threat of global warming. The new documentary After Antarctica It tells the story of that touching expedition and how it charts a path that the 76-year-old continues to follow.
The film premiered at the SF Film Festival in April and is airing in conjunction with several film festivals, including Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival, May 13-23.
Bio-doc weaves footage from a trip across Antarctica with personal archives, interviews with Steger at home in his northern Minnesota cabin, and from solo expeditions in 2018 and 2019. Man of Paradox. Stiger is a public and lonely figure who has changed presidents’ opinions. It is a mental and physical beast plagued with addictions and suicidal thoughts. He is the happiest person in his off-grid booth, but he’s also excited to share his passion with the world.
“If not for climate change, I would have lived a quiet life alone in the jungle,” he says.
He had first heard of the idea that human actions were warming the planet as a teacher in the 1960s. But on that expedition across Antarctica he saw what was at stake. Over the course of 220 days in 1989 and 1990, he and Etienne co-led an international team on the longest possible crossing of Antarctica, 3,741 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula near South America via Antarctica to a Soviet base closest to Australia. They endured temperatures below -100 degrees, a 50-day storm, crack fall and almost lost a team member in a white absence.
The aim of the mission was to raise awareness of the struggle to protect the continent from resource extraction. The team’s pressure led to the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1991. That was also when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere pushed Antarctica and the Arctic into a melting stage.
The transformation spurred Stiger to begin raising awareness about polar environments. He set out on both tedious annual expeditions and (almost with equal difficulty) on the road to raise money, speak up, and win endorsements.
“You’ve been the only voice for a long time,” he says.
It is a picture that was taken in the movie. Besides playing the lead, Steger had very little input. Filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt and her partner spent several years sifting through more than 700 pages of journal entries, 180 hours of archival footage, and many more hours of meetings recorded from the expedition across Antarctica. They then followed Stiger around his home, to the North Pole and back to Antarctica for the first time since 1989.
It was worth the effort. Van Zandt embodies the raw, desolate beauty of the North and the agony of an expedition, while harassing the feelings and quirks rarely seen of a well-known character. On camera, Steger shares everything from why he still loves something more than dragging a canoe through the ice of northern Canada alone, to how he saved his life in a Zen Abbey in his twenties and prepared him for mental and physical challenges. Polar exploration.
“I really like what they did,” says Steiger. “I think they built a really cool stone wall that is an honest picture of me and my motivations. I don’t see a need to take a stone. It’s cool.”
Ideally, it will inspire viewers to take up an issue of their own, he says.
“I hope they see the possibilities in themselves and in the world around them,” he says. “I hope they see the strength they have as an individual and how wonderful it is to be part of creating a legacy.”
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