May 28, 2018
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Antarctic explorers reunite in Port Clyde

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

PORT CLYDE, Maine — More than 100 adventurers gathered last weekend at the home of Paul Dalrymple to learn the latest research and swap stories about the southernmost part of the world.

The members of the Antarctican Society met at Dalrymple’s home, located a few hundred yards from the Marshall Point Lighthouse at the southern tip of the St. George peninsula. Dalrymple’s grandfather was the keeper of the lighthouse in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Antarctican Society was formed in 1960. Dalrymple has been hosting reunions every other year for the past several years at his home.

Charles Swithinbank of Cambridge, England was one of the most veteran explorers to attend the society’s gathering. He has spent parts of eight decades in the Antarctic with his first visit made in 1949.

“I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said.

Swithinbank said the reason he has been attracted to the southernmost continent was simple.

“Everything you see is new. In science, that is exciting,” he said.

Dalrymple praised Swithinbank’s knowledge of Antarctica.

“He knows more about the Antarctic than anyone living or dead,” said Dalrymple who was the oldest person in attendance at last weekend’s gathering at 89 years old.

Swithinbank has flown around the continent and was a co-pilot who flew to the South Pole last year.

Bob Dodson of Vermont first visited the Antarctic in 1947 within two weeks of his 21st birthday. He was aboard the first private expedition to the Antarctic after World War II.

Dodson has visited the Antarctic approximately 14 times with the last time being in 2008 when he was a lecturer aboard a cruise ship.

“It’s an out-of-the-world place. It’s the closest thing we have to outer space on Earth. It’s a brilliant, intensely pure place,” Dodson said.

Tony Gow, a New Zealand native who has visited Antarctic approximately 20 times since 1957, also attended the reunion. Gow is a renowned expert on glaciers who said the Antarctic was a great place to study ice cores.

Gow now resides in Lebanon, N.H. He received the prestigious Selitman Crystal from the International Glaciological Society for his study of deep ice cores.

Liesl Schernthanner first went to the Antarctic in 1995. She had just completed college. She said she had a friend who worked in the Antarctic and since Schernthanner had always been interested in the southernmost continent she tried to win a spot on a team to support the researchers and was successful.

The Idaho resident has been to the Antarctic 15 times, the last being from October through February.

“It’s an incredibly unique environment,” said Schernthanner whose mother lives in Calais.

Bob Benson works for NASA and lives in Silver Spring, Md. He spent 10 months at the South Pole in 1957. He was a seismologist who was focusing on the ability of people to communicate while in Antarctica.

Benson said he attended the reunion so he could visit his friend Dalrymple.

Husband and wife Wendell and Pat Wilson have both been to the Antarctic. Wendell Wilson had been a fighter pilot.

“It was a powerful experience,” he said of visiting the southernmost continent in the world. “It’s like being on the moon. When you are there, you have got to respect Mother Nature.”

Pat Wilson has visited the Antarctic twice. She is an author and professor at the University of Houston in Clear Lake.

Her first trip was as a tourist about 24 years ago aboard a ship that departed from Chile and the second was aboard a Russian icebreaker that left from New Zealand.

“It’s an amazing place, I hope humans don’t mess it up,” she said.

Charles Greene grew up in Aruba and was raised in that tropical environment. In the fourth grade, he read a book by Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd and became interested in visiting there.

He attained that goal when he went to the Antarctic in 1957-58.

“It was the greatest year of my life,” Greene, a resident of Santa Barbara, Calif., said.

Art Jorgensen, who now lives in Hilton Head, S.C., went to the South Pole in 1957-58. He had gone to Rutgers University and majored in geography. He had received meteorological training while serving the Navy during the Korean War.

“I was young, I was adventurous,” Jorgensen said of his decision to go to the South Pole.

He as many others did in 1957-58 were part of the International Geophysical Year led by 12 countries to study the southernmost continent.

Charles Lagerbom was one of the members of the Antarctican Society from Maine who attended last weekend’s gathering. He did research in the Antarctic in the early 1990s as part of a glacial geology team from the University of Maine.

Lagerbom serves as president of the Antarctican Society.

Dalrymple said Lagerbom has one of the most extensive libraries about the Antarctic of anyone in the world.

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