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South Pole remains close to Port Clyde man

Posted Feb. 11, 2012, at 3:52 p.m.

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Paul Dalrymple holds the daily journal he kept while at the South Pole in 1958.
Paul Dalrymple holds the daily journal he kept while at the South Pole in 1958. Buy Photo
Paul Dalrymple (right) holds an Australian flag with Sir Hubert Wilkins, a polar explorer from Australia, while at the South Pole in 1958.
Paul Dalrymple
Paul Dalrymple (right) holds an Australian flag with Sir Hubert Wilkins, a polar explorer from Australia, while at the South Pole in 1958.
Paul Dalrymple wears the parka he wore while at the South Pole in 1958.
Paul Dalrymple wears the parka he wore while at the South Pole in 1958. Buy Photo

PORT CLYDE, Maine — You can take the man out of the South Pole but you can’t take the South Pole out of one man.

Paul Dalrymple said his heart remains at the South Pole even though it has been 54 years since he first stepped foot on the southern most point of the Earth.

His home is filled with photographs, paintings, multiple stacks of books, magazines, letters and a daily journal — all related to the Antarctic.

A climatologist by profession, the 88-year-old Dalrymple continues to stay active both in the study of weather and in news concerning the Antarctic.

For the past 23 years, the Port Clyde resident has reported daily on weather conditions to the National Weather Service. He also holds regular reunions for members of the Antarctican Society.

“I feel something like Lou Gehrig in his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, ‘I am the luckiest man in the world,’” Dalrymple said.

His roots to Port Clyde are deep. His grandfather Charles Skinner was the longest serving lighthouse keeper in the Lighthouse Service. Skinner manned the Marshal Point Lighthouse, located several hundred yards from Dalrymple’s home, from 1875 until 1919. Dalrymple’s mother Marion Skinner was born at the light keeper’s house in 1895.

Dalrymple said his life path was influenced greatly by a lecture he attended in 1936 at Watts Hall in Thomaston. Armory “Bud” Waite, who was a member or Admiral Richard Byrd’s second expedition to Antarctica from 1933-35, was the speaker in Thomaston. Waite also came up with a system to determine the depths of snow using radio echos. The young Dalrymple said he had read the two books written by Byrd about his Antarctic adventures, before attending the lecture.

Byrd was the first person to fly over the South Pole, achieving that milestone in 1928.

Dalrymple was an infantryman in World War II and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge which was waged from December 1944 into January 1945. He spent the final four months of the war in a German-run prison camp.

After he left the service, he went to college, noting that his father Charles Dalrymple was a great believer in education. After obtaining his master’s degree from Syracuse University, Dalrymple said he decided he needed to get a job and hitchhiked to the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, Mass. The observatory has been collecting weather observations south of Boston since 1885.

He recalls climbing the hill and knocking on the door of the observatory and asking the man who answered the door about what they did there.

“Three hours later they escorted me back to the door which was to become my home off and on for the next several years,” he said. Dalrymple was a resident observer, earning $115 per month.

Dalrymple took courses in meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and oceanography at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

He worked one summer aboard the Albatross III in the North Atlantic studying the Gulf Stream. He later worked as a meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau. In this job, he was stationed on Coast Guard cutters in the North Atlantic.

In 1957 during the International Geophysical Year, which was a joint effort by countries of the world to study various scientific endeavors, there was an opening for someone with micrometeorology training — the science of weather at ground level — to serve at Little America V. Little America V was the United States base of operations in Antarctica.

Dalrymple was selected to go and while there, he got a call from the station scientific leader of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station asking if he knew of anyone back at his home office in Massachusetts who would be qualified to serve as a micrometeorologist at the South Pole. He said he would like the opportunity and so he spent 1958 stationed at the South Pole.

The cold seldom bothered Dalrymple during his stay even though temperatures dipped to 102 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

“The wind doesn’t blow very strong at the South Pole, so you can walk around with no discomfort,” he said. “The South Pole has the best weather in the world.”

The only times the cold got to him was when he had to climb a mast where the anemometers, which record wind speeds, are located to replace the cups to the equipment. He said he had to take off his heavy mittens to do this work and it would sometimes make him sick to his stomach.

He said he has never forgotten his time at the South Pole.

“Today, I feel like I am still at the South Pole,” Dalrymple said.

He returned to Antarctica in the late 1960s as the program manager for micrometeorology. And around 1990, he served as a lecturer in history aboard cruise ships that went to the Antarctic.

He moved to Port Clyde and built his house 23 years ago so he could care for his aging mother who lived in the neighboring house. He contacted the National Weather Service and agreed to be one of its weather observers.

Every evening at 6, he checks the equipment at his small climate station and records the current temperature, the high temperature for the day and the low temperature. He also records the amount and type of precipitation.

Through his decades of studying the weather, Dalrymple said he is convinced that mankind was influencing the climate by warming the globe.

“I certainly believe that humans are warming the Earth,” he said.

He noted that on Christmas Day in 2011, the South Pole recorded its warmest temperature on record, 9.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another big news item coming out of Antarctica that he believes lends credence to global warming is the expected breaking free of a chunk of ice the size of New York City.

This current winter in Maine is one of the warmest and least snowiest but Dalrymple said this year is similar to about four other winters he has experienced since maintaining records in Port Clyde.

In the 23 years he has recorded the weather in Port Clyde, the least amount of snow fell in 1999-2000. That year, there was no measurable snow in December or January. The most snowfall at the end of the St. George peninsula came in 1995-96 when 92 inches were recorded.

The average snowfall at his Port Clyde station has been 42.9 inches.

He noted the warming influence of the ocean keeps Port Clyde warmer than inland, and precipitation is often rain or mixed when it is now several miles inland.

This year, the snowfall total is 14 inches although it has come in a lot of 2-inch snowfalls and then will melt by the following day.

The veteran climatologist said he watches the Weather Channel, although he prefers the Channel 13 weather forecast more than any other.

Dalrymple’s lifelong devotion to the Antarctic has been recognized multiple times. A nearly 12,000-foot mountain was named after him by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names on Antarctia. A photograph of that is among the ones that are displayed on his wall.

This summer, Dalrymple is planning another outing at his Port Clyde home for the Antarctican Society which consists of people who both have visited the southernmost continent as well as those interested in it.

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