Terrible Things Happening in Cold Places

Terrible links posted in cold places
3 Nov 2018, 9:44 p.m.

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.

The bookworms in Bellinghausen

I have many dear friends to thank for calling this one to my attention! It was reported late last month that a researcher at the Russian Antarctic research station, Bellinghausen, had stabbed another with a kitchen knife. The two men had been living together at Bellinghausen for at least six months, meaning they had overwintered together, which can naturally bring tensions to the surface that might otherwise stay harmlessly concealed.

After a few days, it was reported that the stabber, Sergey Savitsky, was angry with the stabbee, Oleg Beloguzov, because Beloguzov kept spoiling the endings of the books Savitsky was borrowing from the base library. This is an annoying habit, but not really worth stabbing someone in the heart over!

The Smithsonian blog has a post about the case, with some background information about other violent affairs on the Antarctic continent. As of this writing, it looks as though Beloguzov will recover. I sincerely hope that Savitsky remains the first person to be charged with attempted murder on Antarctica, and the charge is not updated to murder.

The strange life and death of Kim Chang-ho

Mark Horrell's mountaineering blog, Footsteps on the Mountains, is one of my favourite online reads; I like his travel diaries, too. Although Mark covers all aspects of mountain climbing, not just ill-fated expeditions, readers of this blog will find a lot on his site to interest them.

This October, he wrote about the Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, whose nine-member team had died on the mountain Gurja Himal, Nepal, earlier in the month. Chang-ho and his team's deaths are mysterious. Mark's theory, which sounds plausible to me, centres on a phenomenon I had never heard of before, which he has seen in person—at least the evidence of it. It's a terrible shame that Kim Chang-ho came to attention outside of Korea for such a sad reason, when his accomplishments in life were so outstanding.

Bodies in Antarctica

BBC Future has been running a series of longform articles on Antarctica, Frozen Continent. As with Footsteps on the Mountain, the series is generally very interesting and, though it only comprises four pieces so far, covers a good range of topics. In particular, I'd like to link to A frozen graveyard: the sad tales of Antarctica's deaths, an investigation of several incidents where people have died on the ice and left their bodies there. This article takes a sober look at some tragic events, and what they have meant for continued human occupation of the continent.

Death in Ice Valley

Finally, another BBC production caught my attention in the last couple of weeks: Death in Ice Valley, a podcast produced jointly by the Norwegian public broadcasting company, NRK, and the BBC World Service.

Over ten episodes, Death in Ice Valley tells the story of the so-called Isdal Woman, an unidentified woman whose body was discovered in November 1970, in a desolate valley outside of Bergen, Norway. Speculation about her identity and reason for being in Bergen, as well as about a potential cover-up or aborted investigation of her case, has been lively ever since. I've been fascinated by this mystery for years and was very excited in 2016, when NRK started a new investigation, including DNA tests on samples that had been preserved after her autopsy. I followed the results as closely as I could, despite not reading Norwegian.

This podcast is narrated by NRK's Marit Higraff, who led that effort, and Neil McCarthy from the BBC side. The sound design, quality and editing are the highest standard I've heard so far in a true-crime podcast (I'm very picky), and the resources dedicated to the case are astonishing. Higraff and McCarthy take us right across postwar Europea, searching for evidence from both scientific advances and the memories of eyewitnesses. I believe this recent work has brought us a lot closer to understanding the truth of this woman's life and death, and I hope that by spreading awareness of her, the podcast will help as well.

Content warning: the dreadful circumstances of the Isdal Woman's death are described, though of course without images.