Dr George A Llano, biologist, lichenologist and program manager for Biological and Medical Sciences for the US National Science Foundation's office of Polar Programs from 1960-1977, died aboard the Antarctic tour ship Akademic loffe on 9 February 2003 at the age of 93.
Llano was working as a staff member of loffe, which was one day into a 19-day voyage from Ushuaia to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. His body was put ashore at Stanley in the Falklands two days later, and his son, who was accompanying him on the voyage, made arrangements for it to be returned to the US. Llano had lectured and traveled extensively aboard polar tourist vessels for the part two decades. "He ended his life living his desire and not wishing it. Not many can have that," said his son Dr Charles D Llano.
Llano's work on the US National Committee for the IGY led him to NSF's nascent polar program in 1960. He retired in 1977 as acting Chief Scientist and program manager of the NSF Polar Programs Office.
He promoted funding for work in Antarctica, edited works that included Antarctic Terrestrial Biology and several volumes of Biology of the Antarctic Seas, and mentored generations of researchers.
"What I did was to contribute to the academic pool by enriching it with polar workers with polar field experience," Llano told Peter Anderson in 1989 during an interview that is now part of the American Polar Society's oral history program archives.
Mount Llano (1930 m) in the Prince Olav Mountains was named after him, as well as a family of prehistoric whales by a whale researcher grateful for Llano's funding.
George Llano was born in Havana and educated in the US, becoming an American citizen. He was a zoology graduate of Cornell University, receiving a Masters degree in museum science at Columbia University and a Doctorate in botany from Washington University in St Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s he held biological research positions, including the Agriculture Department's Soil Conservation Service and the National Park Service.
Llano was a world authority on shark attacks. During World War II he tested survival equipment and techniques while serving in the Army Air Forces. At one point he spent several unplanned days out on the ocean when his raft blew out to sea and his superiors lost track of his position. He was eventually spotted by a plane.
Llano collected debriefings of airmen who had ditched at sea into a book titled Airmen Against the Sea: An Analysis of Sea Survival Experiences (republished in 2002), and in 1975 wrote another book Sharks: Attacks on Man.
While stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Llano researched lichens in his spare time, work that led to his landmark publication on Umbilicaria in 1950. He was also credited with the discovery of Cladonia perforata, a perforated lichen with a coral-like shape, which in 1993 became one of the first lichens to be placed on the federal endangered species list.
Llano's awards include the Antarctic Medal and a Meritorious Award from the National Science Foundation. He was elected an American Fellow of the Arctic Institute of North America in 1958.
Llano moved to Florida in the late 1970s. His wife, whom he married in 1946, died in 1989.
George is survived by three children and four grandchildren. A memorial service was held at his old club, the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C. on 25 September 2003.