|HISTORY OF THE
OLD ANTARCTIC EXPLORERS
of US Navy Operations in Antarctica 1839-1999
The first US Navy expedition to Antarctica was the US Exploring Expedition that reached Antarctica in 1839. Beginning around 1945 and continuing until 1999, US Navy personnel and other military personnel provided operational and logistic support to Antarctic research while participating in operations with code names such as Operation Highjump and Operation Deep Freeze. These men and women developed bonds with others, both military and civilian, that they met while on the ‘ice’ and these bonds were to last a lifetime and in essence, evolved into a brotherhood.
By mid 1999, the last major Navy command that had served in Antarctica had been decommissioned. This made the desire a lot of people had to be in touch with others that shared “The Antarctic Experience” stronger than ever. Through technology, this desire was fulfilled for some people and they were able to share experiences via e-mail through an Internet e-mail group known as the OAEs-and-FNGs One List.
At some point in time men and women that had been on the ‘ice’ started referring to themselves and each other as OAEs (Old Antarctic Explorers) hence the first part of the group name “OAEs”. In keeping with Antarctic tradition, the FNGs were “Friggin New Guys”. The best anybody has been able to determine is that FNGs are folks that arrived on “the ice” after the OAEs. This is kind of a Catch-22 situation in that everybody that was on the “ice” is an OAE but they are also a FNG because there was somebody there before them. This paradox is reflective of typical Antarctic humor that can only be appreciated by OAEs and FNGs.
OAEs (let’s not forget FNGs either) came from many diversified military commands and civilian organizations and went on to even more diversified lives later. In late 1999, an informal survey of the members on the OAEs-and-FNGs was conducted to find a name that would be appropriate for an organization with such diversified membership and the results of this survey gave birth to the “Old Antarctic Explorers Association” (OAEA). In a short period, the OAEA became a very loose and fragmented group with no real purpose or mission and as its existence continued to be known, membership started to increase. A group of its members volunteered to serve as an ‘Executive Steering Committee” to provide guidance and direction. This steering committee established a formal organization and the selected officers and a Board of Directors. Once the Board of Directors was in place, the steering committee was disestablished and the organization fell under the guidance and direction of the Board of Directors.
The first thing the Board of Directors implemented was the official OAEA By-laws and then applied for corporate status and was recognized as a legal corporation in the state of Florida. As OAEA growth continued, expenses began to be incurred and to off set these expenses, members were charged membership dues and offered annual or lifetime membership as set forth in the by-laws. These dues are also being used to build assets to defer costs of researching and verifying Antarctic artifacts for public exhibition and providing assistance to students in fields that relate to Antarctic research. The OAEA has experienced steady forward movement and is becoming a nationally recognized organization and achieving its main goal of establishing and perpetuating public awareness of the courage, sacrifice and devotion its members displayed during their “Antarctic Experience”.