Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Beckoning Adventure

"These files are kept open for a reason. As the glaciers melt, the depth of the glacier changes. The glaciers are always moving, so that eventually things that are lost in crevasses and whatnot will eventually surface."
Jasper RCMP Cpl. Ryan Gardiner, Alberta

"At the head of a glacier you get more snow accumulation than melting, so things get buried. At the tow of a glacier, you get more melting than snow accumulation and that's where things like rocks and bodies and whatever else become revealed. It's kind of like a river in that sense. They're travelling in this river of ice."
Andrew Fountain, glaciology expert, professor of geography and geology, Portland State University
The Canadian flag flies over the Athabasca Glacier part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, in May 2014.
Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press   The Canadian flag flies over the Athabasca Glacier part of the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, in May 2014.
There are two ways that people can find themselves caught in a glacier, posits Professor Fountain. One was described in incredible detail in the personal account, Touching the Void, written by Joe Simpson in describing the excruciating experience he had suffered when he had embarked on a climb to scale the west face of never-before-ascended Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes with partner Simon Yates, in 1985.

Joe Simpson broke his leg during the frighteningly dangerous descent, and it was left to his climbing partner to accomplish the near-impossible; to gradually lower Joe by rope, bit by bit, with spectacular courage and strength, rather than abandon him, in a powerfully masterful attempt to bring them both to safety. Until Joe happened to fall into an icy crevasse at a juncture when Simon had no choice but to save himself by severing the rope that held them in tandem.

And Simon, concluding Joe had died in the fall, and unable to climb down into the crevasse, was forced to move on without him. Joe's fall hadn't killed him, only stunned him with the perplexing reality that he shouldn't have survived this second fall, and motivated him not to submit to despair, but to slide, crawl, thrust himself however improbably, with his broken leg, out of his predicament to save himself from death.

And this he miraculously managed to do sliding and crawling off the mountain for three-and-a-half agonizing days of effort.

Ten years later, a 28-year-old New Brunswicker left Calgary on his way to Jasper for a hiking expedition. Donald Jean Belliveau was on his own. Last seen four days before his disappearance on January 31, 1995, his hike was never completed with his return to Calgary and then home. An Alberta Missing Persons report was compiled, and nineteen years of searching for his whereabouts was finally brought to a rest last week.
RCMP    Donald Jean Belliveau

Hikers discovered his body in Jasper National Park, and his human remains and his possessions; clothing, glasses, were recovered by the RCMP, via helicopter. His grieving family finally has the slight comfort of closure. The discovery of his body was characterized by Professor Fountain as "relatively common these days". Of the two ways he contends people can find themselves in such hopeless situations, he feels Mr. Belliveau was likely to have fallen into a crevasse.

He may have been killed when he fell, by the impact, he may still have been alive when, as Professor Fountain says, he was buried by snow and then his body gradually forced to the bottom of the glacier through cycles of freezing and melting. A relatively short process, Professor Fountain explains, bodies usually being revealed in a period between twenty to forty years.

Other circumstances, he added, could conceivably trap luckless adventurers for thousands of years, such as occurred to Otzi, the famous Iceman discovered in 1991 on the border between Austria and Italy, a man who had lived around 3,300 BCE.

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