Danny “Finster” Foster

Vale Danny “Finster” Foster

(1937 – 2014)

Danny passed away peacefully at his home on October 14, 2014 in Sarasota, Florida, following a long and hard fought battle with cancer.

Danny wintered at the original Wilkes Station in 1962, and was one of a group of four United States Meteorological personnel which shared duties with two Australian weather observers, Leon Fox and Eric Clague. Wilkes was originally built and manned by U.S. personnel from 1957 to 1959. (In 1959 the United States gifted the station to Australia, but continued to maintain a meteorological interest in its’ operations until the end of 1963, when the last group of Americans returned home).

I first met Danny L. Foster (aka ‘Finster’) in the original Antarctic Division Office at 187 Collins Street Melbourne Victoria in 1961. Later that day (as you do) we adjourned to the City Club Hotel handily situated at 207 Collins Street. It was not a great start for a Wintering Party, as the 4 Americans secluded themselves at one end of the bar, and their Australian counterparts at the other.

I was to share a room at Wilkes with Danny, and found out that the American group was at first mortified with we Australians because they could not understand us – we spoke too quickly and used so much slang. This of course soon changed and they were a great foursome. We all had a terrific 12 months together. Danny’s American colleagues were Burton (Bert) Goldenberg, (Meteorologist), Steve Bone, (Meteorologist and Physicist), and Marvin Haunn, (Engineer, electronics). The Americans, very much part of an Australian expedition, travelled to and from Wilkes on the Thala Dan.

Danny was a very clever person and had a fantastic sense of humour – his infectious laugh started from his boots and his whole body shook. He was the most popular person throughout the whole year at Wilkes. He was a member of the Vostok Trip that to this day remains one of the EPIC trips in Antarctica. His nickname ”Finster” was bestowed upon him from one of the old Cartoons and movies we had at the Station. ‘Baby Face Finster’ was a gangster character who robbed a bank and disguised his getaway imitating a baby –  someone suggested he looked like Danny – and the name stuck to this day.

On our return to Australia in 1963 Danny and I decided to spend some of our ”hard earned’ cash and did a world tour together. We finished up at his small home town – Loudonville, Ohio – which he incessantly talked about, and obvious loved dearly. When I got there it was like I knew everything about it – The locals were absolutely marvellous people and I was made more than welcome, especially coming from Victoria, as one of the local industries was building buses for a large Victorian town – Geelong. A few years later we met up again in Melbourne, when Danny returned as part of his work as Head of Overseas Operations for the U.S. Meteorological Operations.

I consider my encounter with Danny and his lifelong friendship one of the highlights of my lifetime and describe him – to use an Aussie expression – “A Bloody Good Bloke”.

Through Mrs. Foster, one of Danny’s nieces has provided me with additional information about Danny.

Danny was born in Loudonville, Ohio, on August 20, 1937, the son of Carl and Thelma Foster. He was a 1955 graduate of Loudonville High School. Danny soon joined the Navy where he became interested in meteorology. He ventured on assigned treks to the Arctic and Antarctica where he was involved in international meteorological research.

In November, 1962, the goal of a lifetime was achieved when Danny became one of the first non-Russians to arrive at Vostok station, the coldest place on earth. (Vostok, the Russian station, having been temporarily vacated and left standing). Four Australians, one American, (Danny), and a New Zealander, travelled over 900 miles of uncharted territory over the Antarctic Plateau. A book, “The Coldest Place on Earth,” by Robert Thomson, was written about their expedition where temperatures reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.

Danny went on to earn a degree in engineering from the University of Michigan. Danny served, for most of his career, as head of Overseas Operations for the National Weather Service, NOAA. In that position, Danny travelled throughout the world assisting other nations to take much needed weather observations, which, especially in the days before satellite images, were critical for predicting weather in the United States, particularly hurricane forecasting. People throughout the Americas, as well as Europe, Asia, and Africa, respected Danny and he received many honours for the vital work that he did. In addition, Danny personally mentored others, both overseas and in the NWS, and provided higher education for select individuals, who later became leaders in their country. He served as Chairman of the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization’s Technical Assistance Program for many years and was instrumental in coordinating agreements between nations.

Danny was well loved by his colleagues throughout the world and will be sorely missed by the nations and international organizations he helped. In addition to his professional career, he was an accomplished pianist and an avid Ohio State football fan.

Danny is survived by Lois, his wife of 47 years, a brother, three nieces and two nephews. A memorial service will be planned in Loudonville at a later date. Memorial contributions may be made to Tidewell Hospice and The Humane Society of the donor’s choice.

John O’Shea, Wilkes 1962.

Taken from Aurora Journal Summer 2014