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Explorer Ann Bancroft Plays 'Not My Job'

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Explorer Ann Bancroft Plays 'Not My Job'

Explorer Ann Bancroft Plays 'Not My Job'

Explorer Ann Bancroft Plays 'Not My Job'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ann Bancroft

Ann Bancroft was the first woman to cross the ice of the North Pole, and, along with fellow explorer Liv Arnesen, she became one of the first women to sail and ski across the Antarctic landmass. We say, Shackleton who?

We've invited Ann to play a game called "You're going to need a bigger boat." Three questions about shark movies in honor of the 35th anniversary of Jaws.


And now the game where we invite people who have accomplished great things to accomplish a sort of okay thing by playing a game we call Not my Job.

Our guest is one of the preeminent polar explorers of our day. She is the first woman ever to cross the ice of the North Pole. She led the first American women's east to west crossing of Greenland with fellow explorer Liv Arnesen. She's one of the first women to sail and ski across the Antarctic land mass. We say, Shackleton who? Explorer Ann Bancroft, we are delighted to welcome you to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!


ANN BANCROFT: Thank you. Thank you.

SAGAL: Great to have you. So you grew up here in Minnesota, in rural Minnesota, right?

BANCROFT: Yeah, no, I'm a St. Paul kid.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: Oh, really, okay.


SAGAL: And Minnesota wasn't cold enough for you, is that what it was?

BANCROFT: Well, it was good training.

SAGAL: Good training, right.


SAGAL: I mean, well how did you get your start? What made you think to yourself, I want to go to a trackless arctic wasteland now?

BANCROFT: Well my first expedition was at about the age of eight.

SAGAL: Eight?

BANCROFT: Out in the backyard.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: So you were one of those kids who was, you know, well where's Ann? Oh, she's out in the backyard. She says she's exploring the South Pole. Isn't that cute?

BANCROFT: That's about what it was.


SAGAL: But, you know, my kids always come in after half an hour for a sandwich. You never did, right?

BANCROFT: Well, I'm sort of a strange bird.

SAGAL: Wow. It's like, oh my gosh, Ann is out there killing and eating a squirrel on her own.


ADAM FELBER: You don't have to make her lunch.

SAGAL: No. I mean, were you a strange kid? Did you really want to do this from an early age?

BANCROFT: I did and it was that guy Shackleton.

SAGAL: Really? So you read about the great polar explorers?

BANCROFT: Yeah, I saw those pictures and they were playing that soccer game, you know, out on the ice.

SAGAL: Oh, famously, yeah, on the ice.

BANCROFT: That's exactly what it was. And I thought, I want to be there.

SAGAL: So when did you make your first expedition to one of the poles?

BANCROFT: Well, my North Pole expedition was 1986...

SAGAL: Okay. And...

BANCROFT: ...with seven men and 49 male dogs.

SAGAL: Seven men, 49 male dogs...

FELBER: Awkward.

SAGAL: ...and you.


BANCROFT: Awkward. And me.

SAGAL: All right. Not to rely too much on cliche, but did they bring you so in case they got lost someone would ask for directions? I mean...


BANCROFT: Kind of like that, yes.

SAGAL: Well, what was your job though? Because I'm assuming that, you know, these expeditions are expensive. You don't want to bring tourists, you want to bring somebody who can do a job. What was your role?

BANCROFT: Well, you know, to push behind the dog sled and run in front of the dog sled. That was always an interesting job.

SAGAL: You had to run in front of the dog sled?

BANCROFT: Yeah, because if you go out in front of the dog sled, then the dogs get really excited because they want to actually catch you.

SAGAL: Wait a minute. So your job was to be basically bait?



SAGAL: All right, so you're out there for the first time. You were running in front of these dogs chasing you across - this is the North Pole or the South Pole?

BANCROFT: North Pole.

SAGAL: North Pole. And you say to yourself, what? This is great. I love this.

BANCROFT: I'm going to do this again.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: And quite seriously, what about it was great?

BANCROFT: You know, it's just such a variety of things. It's the camaraderie of your team members. And it's really, I guess the honest answer is that when you come home you forget, and then you want to go again.


BANCROFT: Does that make sense?

SAGAL: It does.


SAGAL: It doesn't make me want to do it myself.

BANCROFT: Well, I haven't been great at recruiting people.

SAGAL: Apparently not.


SAGAL: Oh, yeah, you should come do this because eventually you'll forget how miserable it was. Sign here.

FELBER: And you'll believe you liked it.

SAGAL: Yeah.

FELBER: It's way north of Stockholm syndrome.



SAGAL: I wanted to ask you about one last thing which is something you've talked about which we're quite fascinated by is the third man syndrome.

BANCROFT: Oh, yeah. It's just sort of when you're out in these white places for a long period of time, you know, you have a lot of sensory depravation. So there's that element. And then there's also this element of - some people would describe it as spirits or a presence that appears when things are very difficult, physically and emotionally. You know, when you're really putting out. So the third man aura is sort of an appearance.

SAGAL: Right.

MO ROCCA: Is it the abominable snowman?

BANCROFT: It's the yeti.

ROCCA: Sorry.

SAGAL: One of the things I know about polar exploration is that it's actually become a tourist destination. People fly to the North Pole. They just get there in a day and then they fly away. The South Pole, I'm told, has a Starbucks somewhere, somewhere in Antarctica. Does that diminish...

BANCROFT: I haven't found it yet.

SAGAL: Really? You're looking though.

BANCROFT: See? There's more to explore.

SAGAL: There you go.


SAGAL: We shan't come back until we find the venti latte.


SAGAL: Does that diminish in any way what you want to do out there, knowing that it's so easy to get to? Does it make it harder for you to take the effort to get there the way you want to go?

BANCROFT: Well, no, it doesn't diminish it, because we're just doing it so differently. I mean we start from the edge of the continent and we pull a sled that's twice our body weight and we come in from the interior. So we do come to a base at the South Pole.

SAGAL: Right.

BANCROFT: And then we keep on going. So, you know, what I end up feeling is what those early explorers felt like a little bit...

SAGAL: Right.

BANCROFT: ...because we are so isolated. And if something really did happen, in all seriousness, you know, you can't just call up and say, come get me.

SAGAL: You can't?

BANCROFT: Well, you can, but they can't always get you.

SAGAL: Oh, really?


BANCROFT: So, there's a hitch in that. You can now call.

FELBER: Well, they can't sail there anymore.

BANCROFT: They might not find you, you know.

SAGAL: Oh, I see.

FELBER: Yeah, and they can't sail there anymore because the hippies used up all the wind.

ROCCA: Right.


BANCROFT: That's right.

SAGAL: Ann Bancroft, we're delighted that you're here with us and we have invited you here to play a game we're calling?


You're going to need a bigger boat.

SAGAL: It was 35 years ago this week that the movie "Jaws" came out, scaring everybody out of the water and changing the course of movie history. But it also created a whole new genre of film, really bad shark movies.


SAGAL: We're going to ask you three questions about the bad legacy of a great film. If you get two right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is explorer Ann Bancroft playing for?

KASELL: Peter, she is playing for Christie Brandt of Minneapolis.

SAGAL: There you are, all right.


BANCROFT: Hang in there, Christie.

SAGAL: Here we go. Ann, here's your first question. Many of the movies made to exploit the success of the original "Jaws" of course had the word jaws in the title, such as which of these real movies? A, "Air Jaws 2: Even Higher." B, "Schindler's Jaws."


SAGAL: Or C, "Jaws Jaws Jaws Jaws."


BANCROFT: I'll go with C.

SAGAL: You're going to go with C, "Jaws Jaws Jaws Jaws"?


SAGAL: Presumably followed by its sequel, "Jaws Jaws Jaws Jaws Jaws."


SAGAL: It was actually A, it was "Air Jaws 2: Even Higher." "Air Jaws 2: Even Higher" was a sequel to the television documentary "Air Jaws" which was about the great white sharks of South Africa. Apparently, they like to jump in the air. So you have two more questions. You get these both right and win. Here we go.

BANCROFT: Pressure.

SAGAL: What is the plot of the great film, "Malibu Shark Attack"? "Malibu Shark Attack" was about one of these: A, an underwater earthquake that releases horrible prehistoric goblin sharks on the coast of Malibu; B, an evil scientist who combines the DNA of sharks and bikini models, who then rebel; or C, a scorned actress is reincarnated as a shark and has bloody vengeance on all who have wronged her.



SAGAL: You're going to go for the actress shark.


BANCROFT: Oh, I don't like your face.

SAGAL: It was - well, all right, I haven't said it yet. Until I say the letter...

BANCROFT: I really like B.

SAGAL: You like B.


BANCROFT: I like A so much.

SAGAL: A is right.


SAGAL: Congratulations.


BANCROFT: I wish you were my teacher in school.

SAGAL: I know.

ROCCA: Wait, I'm sorry, is this how you found the North Pole eventually?

BANCROFT: Nobody was there, who knew?

SAGAL: No, the idea is that first the underwater earthquake releases the horrible goblin sharks and then this is the cool part, a tsunami washes the sharks into inland Malibu so they can just go nuts. It's very exciting.


SAGAL: All right, this is your last question. Get this one right; you win it all.


SAGAL: Which of these is a real shark movie that you can get the DVD of? A, "Teen Shark;" B, "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus;" or C, "Monster Sharks from Alpha Centauri"?




SAGAL: They're unanimous in their B-dom. Are you saying B?


SAGAL: Yes, you're right.




SAGAL: You can see the trailer online, "Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus." The shark in this 2009 movie is so mega it actually leaps up and bites the Golden Gate Bridge, which is impressive for a shark.


SAGAL: Carl, how did Ann Bancroft do on our quiz?

KASELL: Peter, we made a discovery ourselves, she can play this game.

SAGAL: She can.

KASELL: Two correct answers, so Ann Bancroft wins for Christie Brandt.


SAGAL: Congratulations.

BANCROFT: Oh, thank you.

SAGAL: Ann Bancroft is one of the world's greatest polar explorers. She's founder of the Ann Bancroft Foundation. Ann Bancroft, thank you so much for joining us today.

BANCROFT: Thank you.

SAGAL: Great to have you.


SAGAL: Ann Bancroft, ladies and gentlemen, Minnesota's own.

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