A listing of Explorers/Adventurers who were born or raised in Minnesota who have left their mark in the international community. For a chronological listing of the first explorers to visit Minnesota, be sure to check out our “Early Explorers and Settlers to Minnesota” page.
- Ann Bancroft (Mendota Heights, MN)
Polar explorer; first female to reach both the North Pole, 1986 and South Pole, 1993; one of the first females to cross Antarctica, 2001. First woman to reach the North Pole on foot and by sled.
- Dan Buettner (St. Paul, MN)
Cyclist, Author, Speaker. Buettner first made his mark by bicycling tens of thousands of miles, and utilizing the internet to share his adventures with classrooms around the world. He has received awards for his books that detailed these trips, and has an Emmy Award for his AfricaTrek Documentary. He is founder of the online Quest Network, Inc.
- Robert D. Cabana (Minneapolis, MN)
Former NASA Astronaut. A veteran of four space shuttle flights in 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1998 (the first International Space Station assembly mission). He has logged over 910 hours in space, and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 3, 2008. Cabana is the current Director of the Kennedy Space Center.
- Lonnie Dupre (Grand Marais, MN)
Polar Explorer; in 2006, Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen (see below) were the first to get to the North Pole in the warm summer months. In January 2015 he became the first solo climber to reach the top of Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) during the month of January, after three previous attempts in 2011, 2012, 2013.
- Dave and Amy Freeman (Grand Marais, MN)
Beginning on April 2010, Dave and Amy Freeman have canoed, kayaked and dogsledded 11,700 miles from Seattle, Washington, up to the Yukon, southeast to Minnesota, east to the Atlantic and then down the east coast. They plan on reaching Key West, Florida in April 2013, three years after they started.
- Eric Larsen (Grand Marais, MN)
Polar Adventurer; On October 17, 2010, Larsen reached the summit of Mt. Everest, and supposedly became the first person ever to cross both the North and South Poles, and climb Everest in a single year. He branded his effort as “Save the Poles.”
- Charles A. Lindbergh (born in Detroit, MI but grew up in Little Falls, M)
Aviator; First person to complete a solo, non-stop flight across Atlantic Ocean; Distinguished Flying Cross, 1927; Congressional Gold Medal; Pulitzer Prize 1954. Lindbergh graduated from Little Falls High School in 1918.
- George “Pinky” Nelson (born Charles City, Iowa; raised in Willmar, MN)
Former NASA astronaut. Was on three space shuttle flights in 1984, 1986 1988 and has logged a total of 411 hours in space. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 2, 2009.
- Karen Nyberg (Vining, MN)
Nyberg is a NASA astronaut with a (Ph.D.) in mechanical engineering. She graduated from Henning Public High School in Henning, MN. She was the 50th woman in space and has logged more than 13 days in space, prior to her 2013 role as part of Expedition 36 aboard the International Space Station.
- Jeff Pope (Excelsior, MN)
Pope was an office worker by trade, but in 1936 he and a friend, Shell Taylor, canoed from New York City to Nome, Alaska. Their trip took them through the Great Lakes and on to Fort Smith in the Canadian Northwest Territories. They stayed in Fort Smith for the winter. In the Spring of 1937 they paddled the Mackenzie River down to the Yukon River to the sea, and then up to Nome, Alaska along the Alaskan coast. They completed their trip on 11 August 1937 and covered a total distance of 7,165 miles, the longest canoe trip to date. Pope made an appearance on the “I’ve Got a Secret” game show on June 22, 1955. There’s book titled “New York to Nome : The Northwest Passage by Canoe” that chronicles this journey.
- Dan Seavey (Red Wing, MN)
Dog Sledder. In 1973, Dan Seavey helped Joe Redington, Sr. start the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a 1,000-mile sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Seavey competed in the first and second Iditarod races placing third and fifth respectively.
- Mitch Seavey (Red Wing, MN)
Dog Sledder. Winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 2004, 2013, 2017. Seavey’s 2017 win broke two Iditarod records: Oldest Champion and Fastest Time. He was born in Minnesota, and raised in Alaska. He is the son of Dan Seavey (above), Mitch’s son, Dallas, has also won the Iditarod multiple times.
- Heidemarie Stafanyshyn-Piper (St. Paul, MN)
Former NASA astronaut. Flew on two space shuttle missions and completed five spacewalks totaling 33 hours and 42 minutes, putting her 25th on the all-time on the list of space walkers by duration. In November 2008 a tool bag estimated at $100,000 slipped out of her grip after a grease gun exploded during one of her spacewalks. She retired from NASA in July 2009 and returned to the U.S. Navy at the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C.
- Gerry Spiess (Minnesota)
In 1979, yachtsman Gerry Spiess completed a 54-day solo crossing of the North Atlantic with his home made, 10-foot sailboat called the “Yankee Girl”. This set a world’s record for the smallest boat crossing, west to east. He completed a similar journey across the Pacific Ocean in 1981.
- Will Steger (Richfield, MN)
Polar explorer; First dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply in 1986. 1,600 mile, south-north traverse of Greenland. Historic 3,471-mile International Trans-Antarctica dogsled expedition.
Individuals who were NOT born (or raised) in Minnesota, but have lived in Minnesota for a short period of time.
- Daniel Alvarez (Tallahassee, Florida)
As part of an Outside Magazine sponsored contest, Alvarez paddled 4000 miles by kayak from the Northwest Angle of Minnesota to Key West, Florida. He began his trip on June 11, 2012 and finished on March 11, 2013. His trip first took him east through the lakes on the Canadian border then south through Duluth, Minn. via the St. Louis River. From there, he followed the Mississippi River south to the Gulf of Mexico and eventually on to Key West. (SOURCE: predictablylost.com, outsideonline.com)
- Dorothy Molter (Arnold, Pennsylvania)
Also known as the “Root Beer Lady” to canoeists in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota, yards from the Canadian border. Molter was once described as “The Loneliest Woman in America” and she was the last resident in this area, later declared a Federal Wilderness area in 1964. The Forest Service allowed her to stay, but this area was only accessible by canoe after 1964. She had no electricity, telephone or utility services and served up homemade root beer for her visitors.