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|edHelper's suggested reading level:||grades 4 to 6|
|Flesch-Kincaid grade level:||5.87|
The Ends of the Earth: Ann Bancroft, Polar Explorer
By Joyce Furstenau
1 What inspired a young Minnesota girl with dyslexia to become the first known woman in history to cross the ice at the North Pole? Ann Bancroft (not the movie star) was born in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, on September 29, 1955. She was always adventuresome. Ann convinced her cousins to go camping with her in the woods when she was only eight years old. They pitched a tent in the winter snow just outside her home in the country.
2 When she was twelve, Ann found out why the words on the page didn't make sense to her most of the time. She was diagnosed with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder that interferes with a person's ability to recognize and comprehend written words. Most of the time, Ann didn't enjoy reading. She hadn't found anything interesting enough to make the effort. One day she saw a book about Ernest Shackleton. Ann wanted to read about Ernest Shackleton and his attempt to cross Antarctica in 1914. She read how Shackleton and twenty-eight of his men watched their ship, the Endurance, sink into the frozen waters of the Weddell Sea. She read how every one of those polar explorers made it home. After reading this story, Ann began to dream about exploring.
3 After Ann graduated from college, she became an elementary school gym teacher, but her dream was always in the back of her mind. In 1983, Ann hiked to the top of the tallest and coldest mountain in North America. She and her hiking buddy, Tim Elgren, made it atop Alaska's Mt. McKinley (Denali) on June 18, 1983. It had taken them two weeks to climb the mountain's twenty thousand feet. Ann took a picture when they reached the top. Tim muttered something, and Ann asked him who he was talking to. "I don't know. They're your friends," he answered. Ann knew right away that Tim was suffering from hallucinations caused by the frigid temperatures. She had to get them both down off the mountain. It took them two days to get to a campsite warm enough for Tim to begin to feel better. Tim knew that Ann had saved his life.
4 Ann went back to elementary school to teach gym once again in the fall. She kept in touch with Tim who was doing fine. One day Tim mentioned that a former science teacher named Will Steger, who had become an expedition leader, wanted to meet her. Ann wondered why, but Tim didn't explain. She decided to go cross-country skiing and meet Steger at the same time.
5 When they met, Will Steger told Ann he was looking for someone who had her courage, skills, and abilities to trek to the North Pole. He asked her if she would be interested. Her dream was beginning to take shape. She thought about Ernest Shackleton. She also thought about Robert Peary, who had been the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909. Will told her they would cross five hundred miles of ice using dogsleds. He said the trip would probably take two months. Ann didn't have to be encouraged. She wanted to go.
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