The Polar BARE Facts with Wild Women Team Member Franny Bergschneider

By Jules Torti | September 17, 2021

Introducing Wild Women Expeditions’ Resident Polar Expert and Program Manager, Franny Bergschneider!

Franny emerged from the urban wilderness of Toronto and first cultivated her love for travel, expedition, remote places and environmentalism on the deep lakes and rivers of Ontario, Canada. Her passions run just as wild and untamed as the rivers for youth and leadership development projects. For nine years she guided youth on canoe trips in Canada’s wildest pockets. canoe guide and is a self-proclaimed “river ninja.” At Wild Women, we agree! Her street cred includes leading three 30-day canoe trips in the Arctic, Subarctic and northern Ontario. Clearly, she is happiest on the water but, we’re also happy to have her as our new, shiny Program Manager and in-house polar expert.

Her curiosity and love affair with the natural world prompted her to complete a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University. We are bestowing her with an honorary degree in Frozen Landscapeology as she has been exploring the Arctic and Antarctic since 2014. Did we mention that she has guided extensively in Svalbard, Iceland, East and West Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Northwest Passage too? We have our very own Shackleton! Due south, Franny has been on numerous voyages to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica.

 In the polar regions, she was able to continue creating outdoor experiences that challenged people to develop a stronger sense of self and appreciation for the natural world. Through these expeditions, she combined her love of wildlife, wilderness, and remote communities in one swoop. Most important, it gave her the opportunity to share her experience with others–as she does today in her role at Wild Women Expeditions.

Frequently Asked Franny Questions

We are all inexplicably drawn to a certain landscape or place (for me, it’s anywhere and everywhere Africa)–why the Antarctic?

The White Continent, Antarctica, is dedicated to peace, science and conservation. I have always been drawn to remote wilderness landscapes. I want to experience uninhabited landscapes, push myself to the edges of my comfort zone, and explore. The weather and landscape that Antarctica provides is constantly challenging me. No two trips are the same. Navigating  a Zodiac in dynamic weather and ice conditions ignites your senses and makes you feel that aliveness we all seek as humans. Antarctica is unique in so many ways, there are no land-based predators so you can observe wildlife in their natural habitat, without appearing as a threat. There is a palpable, expansive energy when you are visiting a colony of hundreds of thousands of penguins. Antarctica is the ultimate adult scavenger hunt. Spend as much time out and about on deck with your eyes peeled and you never know what you might see. An arched iceberg, the violet hues of the Antarctic sunset, a leopard seal on an ice flow, or even a surfacing humpback whale!

Tell us about your first penguin encounter…

I first touched land at a place called Half Moon Island, in the South Shetland Islands. Home to a colony of chinstrap penguins. Your first impression is often their smell, which you get accustomed to quite quickly. The colony is a cacophony of sounds and smells. A raucous of entertainment to keep you enthralled from the calls to the conflicts to the projectile poop! You’ve been warned!

If you want to check out some penguin colonies on ‘Penguin Watch’ and participate in citizen science you can click here.

Name three things you always packed for an Antarctic expedition.

My binoculars, a camera, and thermos. And always my sense of adventure! 

Are you Team Drake or Team Shackleton? Why?

Neither. I am Roald Amundsen all the way! Amundsen was the Norwegian explorer was the first to traverse the Northwest Passage by sea, the first to the South Pole, and the first to the North Pole by airship. He did not force his view on the world but wanted to absorb and understand the knowledge of Inuit inhabiting these inhospitable regions. He sought to understand living in relationship with the land and as a part of the ecosystem. His success belonged to the shared wisdom of people who came before him. 

If you owned a boat, what would you christen it? 

I would call her Wilhelmina Bay. It is a picturesque bay, named for Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands, situated in a glaciated mountainous amphitheatre. Often, there are dozens of dozens of humpback whales feeding. The views alone are worth crossing the Drake Passage for.

Share an Antarctic experience–give us all the feels! What does it smell like? Sound like?

I love to drive my Zodiac to a spot among some brash ice with good views of a glacier and icebergs. I will turn off my engine for some quiet time with guests. Once human noise is eliminated you can tune into the rhythm of Antarctica’s song. It’s the loudest silence there is! The ice is popping, cracking and groaning–the landscape is alive! You might even be able to hear a humpback whale taking a breath. These experiences remind me that time spent in quiet stillness is essential. We need to have  moments to observe and reflect to cultivate connection, gratitude and respect for oneself, others and the earth.

What’s your favourite Southern Hemisphere constellation?

I frequent the poles in their respective summers which means I am a creature of the midnight sun. 

Convince me why I should go to the Antarctic. I’m not crazy about the cold, I’ve been seasick and barfed all across the Pacific and Indian Ocean BUT I love birds and extremes and books about early polar exploration.

When you go to Antarctica it can feel like an other worldly experience. The ice-capped glaciated landscape and icebergs will satiate your eyes and ignite your imagination. Living on a ship you can completely disengage with the electronic world. There is no cell reception in Antarctica. Here you can deepen your relationship with yourself and connection to the earth’s most vulnerable and fragile ecosystem.

Intrigued? Check out Wild Women Expeditions’ Antarctica itineraries and put the White Continent on your to-do list before hell freezes over–because then it won’t be so special, will it?

Be sure to follow Franny on Instagram too! She gets around! @polar.whimsy