Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery

As I recount in Cold a Long Time, I asked Professor David Evans, co-author of "Glaciers and Glaciation" about the glaciological aspects of Duncan's case. During our initial conversation, I told him I was researching the case of a young man who had apparently fallen into a crevasse on a glacier ski slope and then emerged fourteen years later.  Would he be willing to examine photographs of the discovery scene, and tell me if he noticed anything remarkable? He agreed, and the next day he emailed me:

After looking at those photos, I would say that this is a very strange case indeed. He was found on the upper part of the glacier. I thought he had come out at the snout, which would make more sense if he'd been buried deep in a crevasse. He must have died near the surface but sufficiently deep to avoid being detected. Otherwise there is no way he would have melted out this far up the glacier. I also find it difficult to believe that on a glacier so small no one saw what happened or found him immediately after the alarm was raised.

Later I asked Professor Evans if, in his opinion, Duncan's limbs could have been segmentally fractured by glacier sheer stress, and he replied as follows:

He was found high up on the glacier and relatively close to the surface, even if you consider that some surface lowering had occurred since burial. The highest shear stresses in glaciers occur under the thickest ice and where it is moving compressively (i.e. near the snout and in the basal ice layers). Crevasses indicate extending flow and so there is no compressive flow to contend with, and anything deposited in a crevasse near the glacier surface will simply move passively with the glacier as it slips over its bed and deforms internally. If a body lay across shear planes (not likely to find any of them near the surface) then it could be cut into more than one piece but obviously the pieces will be laterally displaced on either side of the shear plane – you certainly wouldn’t find all the pieces randomly piled up together in one place!