Not many of us can say that we have been to either the Arctic or the Antarctic, but for Dixie Dansercoer the sub-zero climates of the poles are a passion. Dixie Dansercoer is the ultimate polar explorer and extreme sport expeditionist, he makes regular polar trips and has crossed both polar regions on foot.
Born in 1962 in Nieuwpoort, Belgium, Dixie has spent most of his life travelling the world, taking on many challenges across a wide range of outdoor activities. From mountaineering to mountain biking, from running to powerkite-skiing and from sailing to wind- and kitesurfing, Dixie will use any method to explore the extremes of our planet. A list of Dixie’s adventures and achievements is shown at the bottom of this post.
Dixie’s most recent expedition to Antarctic followed in the footsteps of a voyage from the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. In 1897 Belgian Royal Navy Lieutenant Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache sailed from Belgium to the Antarctic with a multinational team, including Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole. From September 2007 to May 2008, Dixie and 6 crew members on the “Euronav Belgica” re-enacted the 20 landings made by Adrien the Gerlach commemorating the historic sailing expedition.
On his first visit to Antarctica, 10 years earlier, Dixie crossed through the south pole on a 4000 km trip using skis and powerkites. This was the first time powerkites had been used for this type of expedition.
These expeditions are not just for fun! Dixie also undertakes scientific experiments and in-depth photographic recording of the scenery, plants and wildlife.
In order to gain an insight into the fascinating life of the polar explorer and extreme sports expeditionist, we contacted Dixie and asked him a few questions…
Dixie Dansercoer Interview
CheapTents.com: What inspired you to become a polar explorer?
Dixie: It has been a gradual confrontation with ice and snow. At first in the (high) mountains during alpine excursions and climbing trips where I was intrigued by the wonders of ice, glaciers, snow and the shades of white.
CheapTents.com: What has been your biggest achievement?
Dixie: With the necessary humility, I have enjoyed the privilege of having completed integral crossings of both the Arctic ocean and the Antarctic continent on foot. One was 106 days while the other lasted 99 days.
CheapTents.com: You are a specialist in many outdoor activities, such as climbing, powerkiting, windsurfing, sailing, mountain biking, running and treking. Which is your favourite and why?
Dixie: Even though I am very ambitious and clearly try to outperform myself without going into competition neither with mother nature nor with other polar explorers, I thoroughly enjoy the more relaxed outings in deep and serene nature. Without stressful and complicated undertakings and in the company of good friends, camping with the ability to soak up nature in it’s purest form, far away from the busy world, is what I really enjoy.
CheapTents.com: What is the thing you find most rewarding about undertaking a polar expedition?
Dixie: Being able to submerge myself in a simple frozen world and almost becoming one with the surroundings is a privilege. Realizing that I am using my senses just like the animals in order to sniff danger or to know how to tell sweet or salty water just by looking at it while on an expedition on the arctic ocean, proves that the depth of the experience is more important than the possible success.
CheapTents.com: How do you keep motivated on long polar expeditions, especially in areas of unchanging scenery and during whiteouts?
Dixie: I must say that it has gradually become normal and natural to accept non-perfection. I have taken the preparations of all of the expeditions that I have undertaken very seriously and know that the hardships come with monotony, endless hours of skiing, eating the same food every day for 100 days in a row.
It is clear that experience helps because you simply know what is ahead and you have learned to accept all difficulty. I also have learned to accept that I am a normal citizen suddenly being stripped from the comforts of modern society and that it initially takes effort to put myself in a new life stripped of anything. The most important thing that keeps me motivated is my sincere passion for the polar regions and the amazement of it’s beauty.
CheapTents.com: What has been your worst injury (if any) from outdoor activities and how did it happen?
Dixie: On day 32 during the crossing of the Antarctic I was lifted up in the air in stormy conditions by the kite-system that we used and thrown back onto the hard ice twice. Leaving me unconscious and with two broken ribs I had to take one day of rest in the tent before continuing.
CheapTents.com: During your expedition to the arctic in 2007 you have undertaken scientific measurements. What did you measure and how can this help to improve our understanding of the polar environment?
Dixie: The scientific mission we took along was in cooperation with the ESA (European Space Agency) whereby we were asked to measure the thickness of the snow layer on top of the frozen (saline) arctic ice.
It was important enough to the ESA because in the past they had only been able to predict the melting of the ice on the arctic ocean by using satellite imagery that can measure the ice thickness every 2 to 3 centimeters, which is of course with utmost precision. However, the parameters used did not take into account the snow that acts like a blanket, slowing down the melting of the ice.
Therefore the predictions were quite exaggerated and we were asked to do the field work. Every 40 km we would measure the snow layer over a distance of 500 meters and this every 5 meters. All the data are now being processed and will allow [ESA] to create more clarity into the matter of the melting of the arctic ice.
CheapTents.com: Which polar region, the Arctic or Antarctic, do you like the most and why?
Dixie: Clearly the Arctic ocean. It is like a love and hate affair because the living conditions in the Arctic are much harder compared to the Antarctic where it is dryer and less dynamic.
The Arctic ocean offers a wide variety of colours and the confrontation with the wildlife naturally makes things more interesting.
CheapTents.com: How did you feel when you first found out that you have the polar explorer statue made of you?
Dixie: The statue in Nieuwpoort, Belgium was inaugurated at the start of our sailing expedition to the Antarctic and was an initiative of the city of Nieuwpoort who had previously made me their honorary citizenship in 1998. Made by artist Freddy Cappon it is a tribute to my life as a polar explorer, but also to the importance of a little nation as Belgium with a clear polar history.
CheapTents.com: Do you have any expeditions planned for the near future?
Dixie: A completely different kind of expedition is the travelling exhibition that I am putting together:
It contains all of the challenges of big expeditions with organizational, budgetary and logistical challenges, but this time … Without the extreme lifestyle.
I do have another ambitious polar expedition planned for the 2011-2012 Antarctic season when I will try to execute a 6 to 7000 km expedition in east Antarctica.
CheapTents.com: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Dixie: I may say that I am a freak when it comes to gear. Always testing, feeling, comparing ease in use and especially weighing since we have to shave off every gram that is too much.
I strive for excellence in quality which is usually measured by its sturdyness and solidity. But other criteria are ease in use and versatility.
Strangely enough, I tend to form a sort of relationship with equipment which I know is dead material, but when you use gear so much and for so long, I guess it is normal…
CheapTents.com: Any people or sponsors that you would like thank?
Dixie: It has been a pleasure to work with long-time and trusted partners like Sprayway and Hike-Away in Belgium who distribute Vaude.
The past has proven that with evolving materials and ethical developments my preference seems to be going towards those companies who not only follow the trends, but who have that pioneering instinct that I incorporate in my business as well.
Dixie’s latest project (Ant)Arctic Matters is a travelling expedition that aims to showcase the beauty of polar regions and in doing so, will help us to understand and protect these globally important environments.
A large part of the (Ant)Arctic Matters exhibition has been created by artists using an array of unique sensory and audio-visual techniques that will help to highlight the fragile character of the Polar Regions.
The website contains stunning photographs of the polar regions, including scenery, wildlife and Dixie in action!
This project is completely different to anything I’ve done in the past. I want to show the whole world the crucial importance of protecting our superb polar regions. We can all make a contribution, by changing our own consumer behaviour. Green technologies, particularly apparent in our country, play an essential role.
Dixie Dansercoer’s Adventures and Achievements
For more information about Dixie’s expeditions please visit his website, www.circles.cc
- Two Round The World trips West to East and East to West, 1984-1986
- Belgian windsurfing champion in the wave-riding discipline, 1987.
- Cho Oyu, Tibet, climbing expedition, 1990.
- Mount Kenya, climbed the N/E and S/W faces, 1991.
- Mount Teide, Tenerife, World and Guinness Record holder for high altitude mountain biking, 1991.
- Mont Blanc, France, winter ascent, 1992.
- Mount Fuji, Japan, winter ascent, 1992.
- Australia and Belgium, Ironman Triathlon, 1993.
- Organiser and participant “Karakoram Bike Adventure”, 1200km through Pakistan and China, 1994.
- Belgium “La Transardennaise” 160 km Ultra-Marathon: 2nd place, 1994.
- Langjökul Glacier, Iceland, polar trek, 1995.
- Mount Cameroon, climbing expedition, 1995.
- Trans-Greenland expedition with Alain Hubert, 700 km on skis with powerkites, 1995.
- Mount Pisco, Peru, Alpamayo trek and ascent, 1996.
- Mount Everest climb (camp two) and ascent of Island Peak, 1996.
- Spitsbergen, Svalbard, polar trek,1997.
- South Through The Pole: Crossing of the Antarctic continent with Alain Hubert: 4000 km skiing / powerkiting, including scientific research, 1997-98.
- Antarctica 2000: Ascent of Mount Vinson with Julie Brown and polar trek Ellsworth Mountain Range with Rudy Van Snick, 2000.
- The Ultimate Arctic Crossing: Attempted traverse of the Arctic Ocean from Siberia to Canada. With Alain Hubert. 69 days. February – May 2002.
- Sierre-Zinal Switzerland, mountain running race, August 2003.
- Les Templiers Nants, France, 65 km mountain race, October 2003.
- Bering Strait Odyssey: Attempt to cross the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia and back. With Troy Henkels. March – April 2005.
- Bornem, Belgium:100 km running race: 3rd place, August 2006
- Successful crossing of the Arctic Ocean, from Siberia to Greenland, world premier 1800 km in 106 days, February-June 2007
- In The Wake Of The Belgica: Sailing expedition to the Antarctic peninsula. Pioneering sailing, wind-and kitesurfing, climbing and canoeing expedition, Sept 2007- May 2008
- Gondo Switzerland (Simplon Pass), double marathon, 9th place, 2008
If you enjoyed reading our interview with polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer then you will almost certainly enjoy reading our interviews with other professional adventurers and mountaineers, such as:
- Alison Gannett – Pro Ski-Mountaineer / Climate Change Consultant
- Mikael Strandberg – Pro Explorer and Adventurer
- Kit Deslauriers – Pro Ski-Mountaineer / Climber
- Renan Ozturk – Pro Mountaineer & Artist
- Kevin Thaw – Pro UK all-rounder Climber