Doctor/Researcher Killed in Antarctica When Snowmobile Fell Into Crevasse

Sergei Poljak | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Gordon in 2010. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Gordon in 2010. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

We are sorry to report that Dr. Gordon Hamilton, a climate scientist and professor at University of Maine, Orono, has passed away at age 50. Gordon was conducting research on the Ross Archipelago in a shear zone, an area where two large ice sheets meet. This 125 miles strip is characterized by ice up to 650 feet thick and is heavily crevassed.

Map showing location of the Ross Archipelago.
Map showing location of the Ross Archipelago.

Gordon’s team was working closely with an operations team to identify and mitigate the risks of these crevasses, many of which had already been filled. Over his lifetime, Gordon’s contributions to the understanding of ice sheets and climate change have been immense. In practicing a career rife with danger, he gave the world a gift of which few others have been willing. Gordon is survived by a wife and two children.

Here is a video released by UMaine on Gordon’s research:

Statement from Dr. Kelly K. Falkner (National Science Foundation Division of Polar Sciences) on the death of Gordon Hamilton:

On behalf of all of us in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs, which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, I wish to express our deepest sympathies and regrets to the family, friends, and colleagues of Gordon Hamilton, of the University of Maine ‘s Climate Change Institute, who died this weekend while conducting field research in Antarctica.

He was killed when the snow machine he was riding fell into a crevasse.

The U.S. Antarctic Program is a close-knit corps of researchers and support personnel who carry out the nation’s program of research in Antarctica, working at the frontiers of human knowledge, but also at the physical frontiers of human experience.

The death of one of our colleagues is a tragic reminder of the risks we all face–no matter how hard we work at mitigating those risks–in field research.

Gordon will be missed by many and our hearts go out to all whose lives he touched.

He joined the university’s Climate Change Institute in 2000 as an assistant research professor. Prior to coming to Maine, he was at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University and the Norwegian Polar Institute in Olso.

He studied the behavior of modern ice sheets and their role in the climate system. His research focused on understanding ice sheet mass balance — how much mass is coming in and going out, and the processes responsible — and involved satellite remote sensing. His current research projects included ice-ocean interaction in Greenland and ice shelf stability in Antarctica.

He also taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the university, and was involved in statewide Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives for grades 9-12.

Gordon and some Gear.         Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

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