“I was killed in the Amazon jungle years ago and had the journal framed at home to prove it,” said Wayne White, Federal Services Officer at Wolf Creek on Garrison Atoll. of the US Army.
So begins the story of White, who arrived here in December 2021, and who oversees the shipyard and the boats – minus the USAV Worthy, the ferries, the divers, as well as the Surfways here and on Roi. He leaves next month and returns home to Rockport, Texas.
Spoiler alert: he’s not really dead. Keep reading.
Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, White began her adventurous life at an early age.
“There was a little creek near my house that (to me) was the Amazon jungle,” he said. “I entered an abandoned house and discovered that there was a hidden basement. Going down those stairs when I was little was the same (as) later when I was in Egypt to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb.
White enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1974 and spent three years at Camp Pendleton, California as a radio operator. It was there that he met his wife, Melissa, a teacher.
Having traveled and lived all over the world, this is White’s second Kwajalein tour.
“Before coming to Kwaj, I was at home working on my book after my last visit to the South Pole,” White said. He is the author of “Cold: Three Winters at the South Pole”.
When asked what inspired him to travel to the end of the world, he replied, “I like hardship. I like physical challenges. I’m also a huge fan and student of explorers, especially Victorian and turn-of-the-century explorers when it comes to the Poles.
White had the chance to follow the explorers in 2016 when he was selected to be the winter site manager at the South Pole.
“I did my freshman year and it was awesome,” White said. Selected for the following year, it was around this time that his boss informed him that his replacement had changed his mind and asked if he would do back-to-back winters. He accepted the challenge.
A winter at the South Pole lasts from mid-February until early November. After mid-February, no aircraft take off or arrive at the South Pole until late October or early November.
“You’re basically locked in,” said White, who was in charge of 42- and 46-person crews that kept the station running for the past two winters.
Speaking of the crews, White says the best part of working on the ice was getting to know the people.
“One of my favorite activities was getting to know them and helping them. I did my best to help these people through what they were going through,” he said. “My days were quite structured and I would walk around the station to see how everything was going and talk to people.”
White’s management style kept a distance between him and his crew, but they knew he would do anything for them. “My mustache became a focal point for them. It started showing up on flyers that said: House of Wayne, King of Ice South, Lord of Night Long,” he said. “Then people started trying to grow mustaches, which was kind of funny. There was a large banner with a mustache on it and a sculpture of a mustache on the kitchen rug. I wanted them to have fun. I loved them and I hope they knew it.
White also shared his love of the explorers who came before him with his crews.
“I was doing presentations and I had a movie night on Saturday where I was showing these old movies and talking about them with my team. I enjoyed educating them to those who came before us.
As head of the South Pole for three winters, White defined his leadership style as a combination of his life in the Marine Corps combined with his knowledge of the polar explorers who preceded him and the contractor bosses he served under. served all over the world.
“They’ve been so good to me,” White said, commenting on his former bosses. “They tolerated me and taught me how to manage projects. I never forgot all their lessons about relating to people.
The art of dealing with people helped him in such far off places as the jungles of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.
True to his quest for hardship, White traveled to Colombia and the jungles of the Amazon in 1985.
He flew to Leticia, Colombia, because he had always wanted a blowpipe and poison darts.
White had arrived in Leticia on an Avianca flight which went on strike once it landed, so he set off in search of his treasure.
What he found was a city that was a very dangerous place because of drugs. He took his gun and his darts and met some interesting people along the way.
“Upstream, the people I met wanted to know a lot about me,” White said. “In the end, I managed to convince them that I was just a fool walking around, looking for a blowpipe and poison darts enough for them to believe me. Because I was I was there, this young American, looking for stuff in the jungle. Could have gone wrong. They took me down the river in their speedboat.
Arriving in Leticia, he went to Avianca’s office and told the lady that he wanted to leave tomorrow morning. “My Spanish is terrible and the lady was saying ‘No manana’ and stuff. I couldn’t understand her and she couldn’t understand me. I guessed they weren’t on strike yet so I crossed the border to the Brazilian border and stayed there for a few days.
He returned to Leticia to check his flight and was met by a guy who had seen him earlier at the hotel in town. “He came running towards me shouting ‘Señor Blanco, the American Embassy is looking for you. White learned what the woman had tried to tell him days before, that there was no Avianca flight, but there was a flight on a DC6 the next day. This flight, with more than 70 passengers, took off and crashed 10 miles away in the jungle, killing everyone on board.
“I was on the manifesto,” White said. “My wife was warned every time they identified bodies that it wasn’t me.” White called the embassy. He said the staff were really excited that he didn’t die.
“If I had understood Spanish, or if I had understood what the lady was trying to tell me, that’s all it would have taken. I would have gotten on the plane and I would have died.
“I have never learned Spanish since.”
Papua New Guinea
The first of White’s six trips into the Papua New Guinea wilderness took him on a solo trek along the Kokoda Trail in the eastern part of the country in 1981.
“After a few trips, I made my way to the Indonesian side which was much wilder,” White said. He said he might as well have walked through jungles in 1850 that people hadn’t entered and that he was dealing with crocodiles and snakes and leeches, as well as people who, he didn’t not so long ago, people were eating. His last trip dates back to 1992 when he walked from the interior towards the coast between canoes and boats.
His interest in PNG was sparked by the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller in 1963 in what was then called Dutch New Guinea.
“They didn’t know if it had been eaten by crocodiles or by people in the Asmat area,” White said. “I loved the tribal art of these areas and through my research I knew I could get there and see things that probably no one else had ever seen. It was the big draw. »
After his final trip to PNG, White traveled to South Africa in 1993 to follow in the footsteps of Zulu warriors. “I’ve always been interested in Zulu culture and the Zulu War in the Natal Province of South Africa,” White said.
He rode the battlefield route, a 120 mile journey, and was allowed to camp on the battlefield where over 1,000 Britons were killed and twice as many Zulus perished.
“I’m no superstition but this place is unlike any other place I’ve been, especially in the middle of the night in this tent.”
Traveling with Melissa
While White enjoyed his solo excursions, he and his wife lived around the world in exotic locales such as Diego Garcia; Midway Atoll; Shemya, Alaska; Wake Island; Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
“When he came home, he visited my class, and the kids love him,” said his wife, Melissa, a fourth-grade teacher in Texas. “He brings crazy things like huge snake skins and animal skulls, and the kids think he’s awesome. He’s a natural speaker and has no problem putting on presentations for people of all ages. age. “
She explained that she did not go with him to the South Pole because of his teaching. “I would have loved to go there,” she said. “Going to Antarctica was one of his dreams and when he had the opportunity, I wanted him to go. When you love someone, you want the best for them and their dreams kind of become yours. dreams too.
As her Kwajalein tour draws to a close, White shows no signs of slowing down.
“I’m going home to Texas to prepare my next book,” White said. After that, who knows?
“I would love to go back to New Guinea after all these years to see what it’s like now,” White said. “It’s a commitment to go somewhere; you pay a price if you really like something.
|Date posted:||06.11.2022 17:49|
This work, “A Manifest Destiny”: Journeys into the world of Wayne Whiteby James Brantleyidentified by DVDmust follow the restrictions listed at https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.