In August 1989, 23-year-old professional ice-hockey player Duncan MacPherson travelled from New York to Europe, to enjoy a holiday before starting a new job in Scotland. He hired snowboarding gear and took a lesson on the Stubai Glacier. Then, according to the Austrian authorities and the owners of the ski resort, he simply disappeared. In the book Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery, John Leake details the coverup and corruption that started then and continued for years after MacPherson's body melted out of the ice in 2003.
Fridtjof Nansen's expedition in the ship Fram, between 1893 and 1896, would not ordinarily justify a post on this blog, since nothing terrible happened on it at all (except to bears, walruses, birds, other prey animals, and some of the expedition's dogs). While reading Nansen's account of the journey, Farthest North, however, I discovered an anecdote that veered wildly into my territory. A murder investigation began...
I'm working on a longer post ("the one with too many graves"), but it's not ready to post here yet. For today, here's a quick collection of stories that fit well here and have been in the news recently.
When I started this project, I didn't expect to have anything close to my own experiences to write about. This summer, however, my partner and I took a trip to Svalbard, an archipelago inside the Arctic Circle. Our trip went smoothly, but just a few days after we came home, in a location we'd visited, a polar bear attacked a tour guide and was shot dead.
This post is based on a (private) thread I wrote on Twitter as I found out about the incident. There was a lot of noise and argument about it on social media when the news broke and I didn't feel like wading in publicly. I also hadn't yet posted anything on this site and felt conflicted about using current events for what could be seen as self-promotion, although there were misconceptions I wanted to correct. After a few weeks' delay, then, here are my thoughts on the event.
In February of 1973, a group of eight American climbers and one Argentinian guide set off to climb the Argentinian mountain Aconcagua. Although all were experienced and capable climbers, a series of misfortunes led to most of the party being taken ill, and two of them dying. The events near the mountain's summit were further obscured by the altitude-induced hallucinations of the survivors—not to mention the condition of the bodies once they were finally recovered.
Terrible things happening in cold places can be found almost anywhere, as was demonstrated on a recent flight I took to Boston. The flight itself wasn’t bad at all, though the film selection seemed lacking—until I spotted Tatort Matterhorn in the list.
A few years ago, after a lifetime of reading as much as I could about the mysterious, uncanny and macabre, I realised that much of what I was most interested in had certain things in common. These events and stories could be crudely described as terrible things happening in cold places.