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A Chance Meeting in Antarctica


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Douglas Buddenhagen ’56 and Chuck Kennicutt ’74 stand in front of whale oil storage tanks at Grytvyken, South GeorgiaChin strap penguin, Half Moon Bay, AntarcticaKing penguins, Salisbury Plain, South GeorgiaKing penguins on Salisbury Plain, South GeorgiaWendy and Chuck Kennicutt ’74 on Salisbury Plain, South Georgia, with king penguinsJoan and Doug Buddenhagen ’56 at the grave of Sir Ernest Shackelton, Grytviken, South Georgia IslandDouglas Buddenhagen ’56 and Chuck Kennicutt ’74 in Antarctica
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Originally published in the Union College Magazine, Spring 2014

The bottom of the world isn’t a common place to find one Union alumnus, let alone two, but when the Seabourn Quest sailed to Antarctica in December, Douglas Buddenhagen ’56 and Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt ’74 were both aboard.

Kennicutt was on the cruise ship’s expedition team, Buddenhagen was a vacationing passenger.

“Reading the crew bios, I saw Chuck graduated from Union, so I introduced myself,” said Buddenhagen, of Escondido, Calif. “It was good to see how a Union chemistry major spent his career in academia and developed considerable expertise on Antarctica. It made the cruise extra special.”

Kennicutt recently retired from Texas A&M University, where he taught and studied human impacts on Antarctica. Having been involved with prestigious research efforts and organizations in many capacities, he even has a spot in Antarctica named after him – Kennicutt Point.

Onboard the ship, Kennicutt gave lectures about climate change and Antarctica’s ecosystems and environments. He also joined shore excursions, which included Patagonia/Southern Chile and South Georgia Island.

“Antarctica has always been on my bucket list,” Buddenhagen said. “The ice and snow formations were magnificent, and I enjoyed the penguins, seals and other birds.”

A retired engineer, Buddenhagen taught at Union for two years (1958-60) before working for Hughes Research Laboratory and then establishing multiple companies, including water sports product manufacturers and cogeneration power plants.

“Visiting the old whaling station at Grytvyken and the grave of Sir Ernest Shackelton, and meeting Chuck, made this an epic journey for my wife Joan and me,” he said.

Kennicutt was equally thrilled that his eighth trip to Antarctica included Doug.

“Doug brought back some great Union memories,” he said. “I was sharing an experience with someone who understood where I had come from so many years ago.”