Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Don Weld moved to Roswell in 2009. He has been enjoying his retirement years by traveling the world.
“I have a special interest in nature,” Weld said, “so I go as much for the nature as anything else. That’s not to say that some of my trips aren’t for historical value, or other interests. European churches have amazing architecture and I’ve taken some trips with that in mind.”
Most recently, Weld returned from a tour of the Arctic Circle.
“I left here July 28,” Weld said. “I took three long flights to Reykjavik, Iceland. I spent a day there and got to swim in the blue lagoon. The lagoon is 100 degrees. The temperature around it was far less, high 30’s to low 40’s with a cool breeze.
“From there, as a group, we flew to Sisimuit, Greenland. There, we got on a National Geographic ship. It’s considered an ice-breaker class, but it’s not the type that crushes ice, it splits the floes apart to get through.”
For legal purposes, their trip had to wait a short time.
“From there, we sailed across the ocean to Baffin Island,” Weld said. “We also went to Devon Island. Unfortunately, when we got up there we were detained longer than expected so border agents from Canada could fly out to meet the ship. We were delayed for a day and a half.”
Once underway things got interesting.
“We had an Inuit guide,” Weld said. “Every time we went on shore where there was no population center we had to have people on guard for polar bears. They shoot a flare gun first to try to scare them off. If that doesn’t work they’ll use a rifle to hopefully scare them, but if necessary to protect. But as soon as one is seen we all had to get back to the boat.
“We had an incident where a polar bear approached the area where we had several groups out hiking. We weren’t sure if they were going to need to come back to the boat in a hurry. Fortunately, the bear caught scent of something else and went the other way. We were downwind of him so he couldn’t smell us so much.”
Even from the ship the sights were memorable.
“We did see polar bears on ice a number of times,” Weld said. “They’re out there trying to catch a meal, 30 miles from land. One time we came up on a mother with two cubs. They were very curious. We saw a walrus, on ice, suckling its young. We saw a group of five walrus swimming. Somebody said they saw a narwhal but they weren’t sure. We did see a couple of fin whales. They didn’t stick around much.”
True to his curious nature, Weld found lore from the area fascinating.
“Devon Island is where a group called the Franklin expedition left England in the 1850’s looking for the Northwest Passage,” he said. “They failed like so many expeditions did. But there are grave sites and lots of historical things that we could look at.”
The Arctic Circle is large. They never came close to its center.
“We got up to 79 degrees north,” Weld said. “The North Pole is at 90 degrees north. The Arctic Circle begins about 66 degrees north. We were about 1,000 miles from the North Pole at our closest point.”
Originally, Weld planned his excursions with his wife. Sadly his plans had to change.
“This began when my wife was alive,” he said. “We had decided that when we retired we wanted to see the world. She passed away in 2013, but one of the last things she was able to relate to me was that she wasn’t going to go, so I should.”
His travels have been vast.
“In the past five years I’ve been on five continents and over 50 countries,” he said. “I’ve been to Antarctica, so now I’ve been pole to pole, Australia and New Zealand. I went to the Amazon last Christmas for a week, spent a week at the Galapagos and a week in Peru going up to Machu Picchu. When I went to the Antarctic I went to Argentina, Uruguay, The Falkland Islands, the Antarctic and then back to Chile.”
While the North and South poles are known for extreme cold, Weld said there were quite a few differences.
“The Arctic and the Antarctic are very much different,” he said. “The temperature at the Antarctic is much colder. Temperatures got down to zero. In the Arctic it was around 30 to 40 degrees. I visited both places during the 24 hour days. There is a lot more snow and ice in the Antarctic because it’s covered. In the Arctic the flow of water causes the ice to break up every year. It was a lot clearer.
“Baffin Island was practically snow-free. This is northern Canada, so there were patches here and there. Devon Island was almost desert because the snow was gone. Again, we found small places that had snow and ice.”
He said that even different sides of Antarctica differ greatly from each other.
“They just had the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica break off,” Weld said. “You’ve got a peninsula that comes out toward the South American peninsula. That’s where most tourist traffic goes. On the other side of the continent, accessible more from New Zealand, is the Ross Ice Shelf area. They have some tourist attractions there, but not as much. I would like to go on that trip from New Zealand.”
Weld says his next trip will be with his friends from Roswell’s Senior Circle.
“I’m going with the Senior Circle to Ireland in November,” he said. “We’re going to visit the Guinness building. Then next summer I’m arranging an African tour. I’m going to go see Tanzania and a few other areas. I’m going to take a balloon flight over the Serengeti.”
He has been thrilled with his travel agent from day one.
“My travel agent has been great,” Weld said. “The first time I called her, I looked her up in the phone book and said, ‘I want to go see Wales and England.’ she said ‘OK’ and she did it. She’s sent me on a number of trips and they’ve been nice.”
Traveling is always a learning experience and Weld has learned about himself as well as the world.
“I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy the big cruise ships with 5,000 people on them,” he said. “Everything else now has been small ships. The largest ship since has been the one to Antarctica, that was 400 people. The ship that took us to the Arctic had 120 people on it. I like the intimacy. You can get to know the people that are on the trip with you. You feel closer, kind of like a family.”
Until his next trip, Weld will be active in Roswell volunteering with Bitter Lake Wildlife refuge.
“Now,” he said, “I’m preparing for the Dragonfly Festival.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.