Human Interest

Wayne Ranney traveled to one of the most rugged landscapes in the world in a vessel so luxurious it was named “The World.”

Ranney, a well-known geologist in the Verde Valley, presented his trip to Antarctica to the Sedona Welcomers on Jan. 27 at the Sedona Hilton Resort at Bell Rock in the Village of Oak Creek.

Ranney has captivated the Welcomers audience before — even covering a different trip to Antarctica — with his world adventures. This was his 32nd trip to the icy continent, having gotten back just days before on Jan. 23.

“I still might smell like a penguin,” he told the audience.

Ranney has been to Antarctica so many times because of its fascinating ice formations, particularly the icebergs, he said. He showed pictures along with his talk, pointing out the similarities between layered ice and the rock formations here in the red rocks. He also pointed out that the scale of the ice structures was unable to translate on the images, with ice shelves stretching hundreds of feet into the air, one he caught during its collapse which rippled waves that could capsize ships.

“It let out a huge crack like a shotgun,” he said.

He was hired as a lecturer for the ship The World’s voyage, taking off on the 600-foot privately owned craft from South America to the continent’s penninsula.

He had an easy voyage there, with calm seas in the infamously rough Drake Passage before making it first to Deception Island. The area around Cape Horn has taken its share of ships, especially during whaling days, and he showed the rough seas on his return trip as a comparison to the placid blue that stretched before him at the onset.

He also noted that his point of departure at the Chilean outpost recently celebrated its 400th birthday. The lone man on watch there must stay for one year, though is allowed to bring his family.

Once at sea, Ranney was able to appreciate the finer things in life. The boat carried two swimming pools, a “huge” lecture room, a full-size tennis court and a billiard table kept steady using gyroscopes.

Once at Antarctica, he said the “leave no trace” practice common even here on area trails was taken to the extreme, as all luggage taken ashore was meticulously vacuumed to catch any stray seeds or bugs that may have hitched a ride.

He said the temperature there — it is summer in the southern hemisphere — ranged between 25 and 40 degrees, though it is the wind that needs to be considered.

As the boat made its way around the penninsula, which stretches out toward South America, there were a couple red specks in the distance on an ice floe. Lo and behold, it was Santa Claus, making his very last stop, distributing presents once he boarded to the children on the ship.

Of course, this wasn’t the only celebration during the tour.

“Sometimes, you have very special occasions,” Ranney said while switching to a slide of men in tuxedos with champagne on the ice, “like five o’clock.”

The tour took Ranney to Palmer Station, where penguins and their diet of krill — shrimp-like animals — are studied. There, Ranney pointed out that most places on the continent have two things, a distance poll showing how far Rome, Paris and the like are; and a “mandatory” bar.

Then it was on to Port Lockroy, which was on the lookout in World War II during Operation Tamarin for Nazis suspected to use the area as a staging ground for a North American invasion which would have traveled all the way up South America first. The base was rebuilt as a museum and even old canned goods were saved for display in front of walls that had newer layers of paint scraped off, revealing silver screen starlettes posed in pin-up fashion.

Even for a geologist, the trip wasn’t complete without another tuxedo-clad resident — the penguin. Ranney showed slides of the iconic bird and explained that much of their time on land is spent stealing one another’s rocks from nests to add to their own. While at sea, one parent — as the animal coparents a single hatchling — will hunt for up to 36 hours a time, stuffing itself with fish that it will then regurgitate to its young.

Then it was on to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. The wildlife was the main attraction at the further, as not only king penguins reigned but also the massive elephant seal. Young male elephant seals were shown practicing fighting for their future harems, which can prove deadly when the adolescents reach maturity. At the Falkland Islands, their love of Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England, was prominently on display, along with a towering whalebone arch.

Ranney said that the trip was so packed full of sightseeing and other lecturers that he barely had time to teach, but was happy that one demanded a repeat performance. When it came time to answer questions from the Welcomers, the crowd asked not so much about the wilderness, but of the great ship he traveled on. He explained as best he could, saying that the trips The World takes are usually not as dramatic and are planned two years in advance. Also, to own an apartment on the craft, one must have a minimum of $10 million in assets.

The Welcomers closed with some numbers for a recent fundraiser for the Sedona Community Food Bank. The club raised $1,450 and 670 pounds on food. It was also able to donate to other nonprofits as well, giving $500 each to the Verde Valley Sanctuary, Giving Angels and the Humane Society of Sedona.

The next Sedona Welcomers meeting will be on Wednesday, Feb. 24, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Sedona Hilton. Jana Bommersbach, author and reporter, will speak. Guests are allowed one free attendance before being asked to join the club.


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