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Journey to Antarctica changes Parkersburg man’s perspective

January 13, 2019
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This Dec. 7, 2018, photo provided by Wayne Dunn shows himself on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica. Small tour boats can get close to the shore on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica. The continent is so vast, it remains largely unexplored centuries after its discovery. (Wayne Dunn via AP)
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This Dec. 7, 2018, photo provided by Wayne Dunn shows himself on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica. Small tour boats can get close to the shore on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica. The continent is so vast, it remains largely unexplored centuries after its discovery. (Wayne Dunn via AP)

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A Parkersburg man’s perception of Antarctica changed after an expedition to the frozen continent in December.

Wayne Dunn said he connected lots of snow and ice with Antarctica, but after a tour of the Western Peninsula, never imagined there would be so much snow and so much ice on the world’s largest desert.

“It changed my view of Antarctica,” Dunn said.

Dunn left on his journey on Dec. 1, embarking for Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most city in the world of about 80,000 people. The Argentines are developing the area to encourage high-tech industries and commercialization, particularly tourism, he said.

He returned to the states at 10 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Leaving Ushuaia on a Quark Expeditions ship, the tour boat steamed between the numerous islands to avoid the normally rough seas of the Drake Passage toward the Western Peninsula of Antarctica and the many islands along its coast.

“All you see is the ocean, everywhere you look, and you don’t think there’s anything in front of you,” Dunn said.

Moreover, it’s summer in that part of the world and near daylight around the clock, he said. It gets dim, but not too dim, Dunn said.

Seeing the first island was an awesome experience, he said.

The peaks, part of the Andes Mountains chain, jut up from sea level and are covered with snow, Dunn said. They are in stark contrast to the interior of Antarctica, which is a vast plain much less mountainous than the coast and almost one and half times larger than the United States, he said.

And everywhere there are penguins, birds and seals, which feed on the penguins, he said. Humpback whales also feed there, Dunn said.

Nineteen species of penguins exist, most inhabit Antarctica, Dunn said. The larger emperor penguins live further south than the peninsula, he said.

Many birds inhabit there, among those are the skua and albatross, of which penguins are part of their diet, Dunn said.

Dunn was on a smaller tour boat from Quark, which was able to go closer to shore and enable tourists to go on land where they could hike or cross-country ski, he said. Some also climbed the mountains, Dunn said.

That’s about the extent of the tour, he said. Tourism and research are the prime industries, Dunn said.

The scenery wouldn’t change much farther around the coast of Antarctica, aside from the 40 or so research stations in Antarctica from nations around the world, he said. By international treaty, Antarctica is not owned by any country and the Antarctic Treaty controls all impacts on the continent including wildlife and fish, Dunn said.

“If you come across a penguin crossing, you have to pull back and leave it alone,” he said.

Dunn is an avid traveler.

“I always travel with the idea that I’m going to learn something,” said Dunn, a dentist and former Wood County Commissioner who has a keen interest in the environmental and climatic well being of the earth.

“I figure if you don’t learn anything, you just wasted your trip,” Dunn said.

Travel and meeting with the people of other countries also promotes understanding between different cultures, he said. Don’t listen to propaganda because most people are good and informed on international matters, Dunn said.

“People who travel much are far less likely to be prejudiced and biased,” he said.

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Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com

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