Volume 36, Issue 5 (September 1991)
Fatal Accidents on Glaciers: Forensic, Criminological, and Glaciological Conclusions
The rare event of a corpse immersed in glacier ice becoming exposed on a glacier surface is closely connected with the glaciological conditions at the scene and the site of the accident. Provided that the time since death is known, certain questions relative to the circumstances of a mountain accident can only be answered by considering glaciological aspects. How the scene of an accident can be reconstructed by inference from the site of discovery is discussed by means of three exemplary cases that occurred on Tyrolean glaciers (Austria) during the past 40 years: (1) Two corpses were discovered close above the equilibrium line in the accumulation area after 25 years. The two victims had fallen down a rock face after the breaking off of a cornice and had come to rest in the uppermost part of the accumulation area. (2) A victim was discovered in the lower ablation area 8 years after falling down a crevasse in the middle part of the ablation area. (3) A female alpinist was discovered at the very end of the glacier after 29 years; it was concluded that the accident must have happened in the accumulation area.