Retirement Speech For Wayne Lynch

By Joe Van Os on Dec 05, 2013

Retirement Speech For Wayne Lynch
Aboard MV Ushuaia—Orne Island, Antarctica
Sunday, November 24, 2013 by Joe Van Os

Ultimate Antarctica, November 2013 was Wayne Lynch’s swan song for leading trips with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris after 27 years. Now in “retirement” Wayne will devote more time to writing, natural history and, of course, traveling with his wife Aubrey Lang. It’s a bittersweet moment for us as we are sad to see him go, yet happy for his future. As an old friendship like ours remains strong we have, no doubt, every expectation to be in close contact and working on various projects together in the coming years.

Joe’s speech:

Overall, Wayne Lynch is a very lucky man! The best thing that ever happened to Wayne was Aubrey—the love of his life and a beautiful person both inside and out. And when he asked her to marry him she said, “yes!” What great luck was that! Wayne is smart, he made a bold, good choice in leaving medicine to pursue his dream in nature and writing, and he joined an eclectic family of good friends who care about him and who will also happily put him in his place when he needs it—which is just about every day.

Every time he and I get together in a private moment we marvel at all we’ve seen and done over the years. Wayne will turn to me and say—”If I died tomorrow its been a great run.” He always calls it “a great run” though I don’t put my sentiments in quite those terms because it’s obvious, with my weight, I don’t run! Wayne and I have watched incredible wildebeest migrations in Kenya, photographed polar bears nursing their babies on the Arctic pack ice and we’ve probably visited more different emperor penguin colonies together than 99.999 percent of all the people on earth.

Our friendship grew not just because of working together but because both Wayne and I shared such a broad interest in nature and natural history—and we recognized that in each other. And we were interested in not only the pretty things for photography—but the ugly misunderstood things. One day as we were discussing weird and ugly animals we discovered we both owned a copy of a very expensive and esoteric nature book The Vultures of the World. This book had a very limited print run—maybe something like three copies—and Wayne and I had each bought one and the author had probably kept the other one to give to his mother.

During a previous trip to Antarctica we were sitting on a hill overlooking the penguin colony at Half Moon Island—where we will hopefully visit tomorrow. He told me he had adopted the snowy sheathbill—that ugly-faced white bird formerly called the sore-eyed sea pigeon, that eats poop and spilled krill—as his personal totem animal. You have to admire someone who can so closely identify with a species like that. My totem wasn’t much prettier because I love ravens.

Wayne and I first met in Churchill Manitoba in the lobby of the Polar Motel in late October during the polar bear “migration” season some 30 years ago—when we each owned a competing nature travel company . During this uneasy meeting as competitors, we shared our first natural history moment when we checked each other out like two alpha dogs doing a back end sniff. I’ve always been grateful I wasn’t born as a dog because of that sniffing thing.

Due to a variety of circumstances Wayne wound up working with my company leading polar bear trips in Churchill along with John Shaw, Joe McDonald, my sister-in-law Ellie and a number of other photographers and naturalists. During our 20 years in Churchill we offered as many as 20 overlapping tours each season and we brought almost 8000 people to see the bears during that time.

During breaks between these trips Wayne and I spent free time together photographing outside in sub-zero conditions. One extremely cold day during a virtual white out, Wayne and I went out blizzard shooting. I looked over at Wayne and noticed the tip of his nose was glowing bright white from frostbite. From then on I always took comfort in knowing he could light our way back to town if weather conditions got worse.

Over time, the quality of the polar bear experience in Churchill deteriorated due to climate change and as more trip operators stretched the bear season earlier and later into times when bears were normally scarce or absent in Churchill. Because the experience was nowhere near as good as it use to be in earlier years, we closed our Churchill operation to do polar bear trips in Spitsbergen. I sent Wayne to do our initial scouting trip up there.

Wayne always seemed to have some sort of book project going on but when he started taking pictures of animals pooping many of us got a bit worried. For several years, every time we saw him he excitedly reported on his latest wildlife pooping masterpiece. When he told us this was going to be a children’s book about poop we became even more worried. I could imagine this book being banned in 13 southern bible states and throughout conservative central Canada—where they denied pooping existed. I’d have to fire him if he became too controversial.

When The Scoop on Poop came out it became the overnight best seller of his 50 books—probably because so many AARP book club members mistakenly thought it was a book about organic garden composting.

Wayne likes to use only his own photos in his books but in the poop book he had to get one from me. It is a shot of a Maasai woman repairing the cracked walls of her house with cow dung. Below the picture is my photo credit with my name spelled wrong. Maybe spelling “Van Os” might be a bit tricky—but how difficult could it possibly be to spell “Joe?”

When you travel with friends you are with them in sickness and in health. As fellow travelers we look out for each other as Wayne and I have done on numerous occasions. But no one gets sicker than Wayne does on a rocking ship. I used to think the term turning green with seasickness was a myth until I actually saw Wayne turn green. Then I started to believe euthanasia might be a viable option for him.

Wayne has dropped hints he would like a $14,000, 800mm lens as a retirement present—well, good luck with that! But I got him something that he will probably get much more use from in the short run.

As you have no doubt noticed Wayne is a snappy dresser and has always worn well-tailored and what’s happenin’ now clothing. Currently he’s into this Lululemon clothing line which I think gives him a women’s hairdresser look. But as you can tell I’m no fashionista. Often when we comment on his clothes during our morning staff meetings he says: “If you think I look good in this, you should see me in fishnet stockings and a miniskirt.” So I’ve decided to put that to a test.

I went to Victoria’s Secret…