Yankloski, Jim Hertzel and Don Haag (l-r)
pose on Yankloski's yacht during their recent reunion.
Four high school chums recently reunited on a yacht bound for Sodus
Bay and spent much of the trip reminiscing about another boat ride
they made together 43 years ago.
On Feb. 16, 1960, Don Haag and Dick Yankloski of Webster, along
with Mike Norton of Irondequoit and Jim Hertzel, who now lives in
Colorado, were aboard a U.S. Navy icebreaker that made history while
exploring Antarctica's eastern coast.
These four young men, who had graduated from Edison Technical and
Industrial High School in Rochester just two years before, were
crewmen on the USS Glacier, an 8,000-ton ship built for operations
in the ice-covered portions of the world.
Yankloski said he and his three pals never planned to be on a ship
headed for Antarctica.
"We had requested duty in Hawaii or France," he explained,
"but we should have known we weren't going to get those assignments
as new recruits.
"I guess they picked us for the Antarctica duty because they
felt we were from the north so the cold wouldn't affect us,"
said Yankloski, 63, who lives on Klem Road. "We were lucky
because we spent time there in the summer when it wasn't as cold,
but I still remember we had to watch each other to see if white
spots were appearing on our faces, which was a sign of frostbite."
Haag, 64, who lives on Silvercrest Drive, said he and his buddies
realized they were going to be sailing in uncharted waters.
"There wasn't anyone to discuss Antarctica with because nobody
had been there in the 1950s," said Haag. "It was actually
a beautiful place, if you like ice. We also got to see unusual animals
like penguins, seals and whales, but after you spent a couple of
weeks there the uniqueness wore off."
Norton said he studied up a bit on Antarctica before the foursome
set out on this naval adventure "because I was the studious
one while the rest of them were working on their cars."
"It was a very interesting place," said Norton. "We
saw Little America, which was Antarctica's main polar station, and
where Admiral Bird had set up camp when he was exploring Antarctica."
These four young sailors had a two-year stint on the USS
Glacier, which also carried scientists who conducted observations,
tests and explorations on the ice-covered areas of Antarctica.
"It was a very high-tech expedition for its time," said
Hertzel. "The biologists and scientists on board were boring
holes in the ice for experiments and manning weather stations there."
Hertzel added that the four wide-eyed boys from Rochester ended
up with impressive jobs on the USS Glacier as
"We had taken a tough academic load at Edison that included
engineering courses that were similar to what you would take in
college," Hertzel said. "That qualified us to become sergeants
at 18 years old, even though we hadn't gone through the usual training."
"Jim and I were actually given the responsibility of making
the ship move," added Yankloski. "They were short on electronic
technicians so they put us in charge of fixing the ship's electronic
equipment. That was a lot of responsibility for two 19-year-olds."
Haag said having his high school buddies serving on the same ship
eased the homesickness, too.
"We relied on each other," said Haas. "Sometimes
we were on board ship for 55 days straight without stopping at a
port or being in contact with someone in the outside world so it
was great to have each other as sounding boards."
Hertzel said the foursome survived two years in a bleak and isolated
place "because we each had a distinct personality."
"I was the spokesman, Don was the jokester, Yank was the thinker
and Mike was the guy who went along with everything," said
Hertzel. "We still play those roles today when we get together."
When they are reunited like they were a few weeks ago on Yankloski's
yacht, they also bring up the day they made headlines during their
Navy careers. On Feb. 16, 1960, they and their shipmates helped
set up the first unmanned weather station on one of the Antarctica
peninsulas and were also credited with sending a helicopter on the
first flight over to that peninsula. The <I>Glacier<P>
crew also broke a record for penetration into the Admundsen Sea,
traveling 150 miles past the point that a Russian captain had reached
"I remember we were treated as celebrities," recalled
Hertzel. "I remember a firm in Fairport, which made BB and
pellet guns, sent the four of us pellet rifles to use. It was good
public relations for them."
Haag said he doesn't think Antarctica has been in the news since
that historic day when he and his friends made headlines in the
"You never hear about much going on down there," Haag
joked. "Probably the last time Antarctica hit the headlines
was when we were stationed there."
A few months after their historic expedition, these four friends
returned home and split up for the first time in years. Norton ended
up re-enlisting in the Navy and staying for 25 years while the other
three went back to civilian life.
"We all got on with our lives," Haag said, "but we'd
still make a point of getting together every year or two. At every
reunion we'd pick up where we left off. Now that most of us are
retired we're going to increase our get-togethers. I know I haven't
made any better friends than these three guys."
"I think we've stayed friends all this time because we had
experiences together that were somewhat unique," said Yankloski.
"I've never met anyone else who has been to Antarctica."
Hertzel added that the foursome is "even more excited about
the ship today than when we were on it."
In fact, these four ex-Navy men are involved in an effort to bring
the USS Glacier out of the storage in San Francisco,
where it has been since 1987, and dock it in Connecticut where it
could serve as an educational resource.
"You can never go back, but I think we all would if we could,"
said Norton, who spent last weekend in San Francisco helping to
get the ship back in tip-top shape. "My dream now is to be
on the crew of the USS Glacier in two years when
it sails over the North Pole on its way to Connecticut."
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