Friday, June 29, 2012

Rolled out

When I was researching hikers who fell into crevasses and were not recovered, for my book Modern Mummies, someone put me on to Dr. Edda Amspach of the Institut für Gerichtliche Medizin der Medizinischen Universität, Innsbruck, Austria,as the expert on glacier bodies. Dr. Amsach has studied the sites where accidents happened in relation to where the bodies surfaced (sometimes decades later) and explained it by the natural movement of the glacier. She writes, "Generally, fatal casualties on glaciers remain in firn and glacier ice for many years. They are moved along the flow lines from the site of the accidents to the site of discovery." Basically, the body gets sucked under by the ice and moves with it from the accumulation area to the ablation area, sometimes getting churned up and other times getting perfectly preserved. For practical purposes, investigators can reconstruct an accidental fall if a body turns up. All of this is a preamble to the weird news story that piqued my interest yesterday:

The photo above was taken on Monday as a 5-member team investigated an aircraft accident on the Colony Glacier in Alaska. The accident happened on Nov. 22, 1952. A total of 52 people (41 passengers and 11 crew members) on board an Air Force C-124A Globemaster (see example here) were killed when the transport plane en route from Washington state hit Mt. Gannett and exploded. The aircraft was covered by the snow as the weather hampered rescue operations at the time. The wreckage was spotted earlier this month by the Alaska National Guard during a helicopter training mission.  The bones that were recovered will be processed for DNA and will likely identify the remains of 21-year-old Isaac Anderson, whose 41-year-old granddaughter began researching the wreck 12 years ago. "The ice gives up what it wants to give up when it wants to give it up. It's really in control," said Army Capt. Jamie Dobson.
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