Antarctica Deaths

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
Trip End Feb 17, 2009

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Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Flag of Antarctica  ,
Sunday, January 25, 2009

My entire time at the South Pole, I got the distinct impression that the continent was plotting my demise.  Women's body cycles go wild, nasal and throat cavities stop working properly, and sleep, at least for me was infrequent and fitful at best.  Since visiting the continent, I've become very interested in Antarctic lore, coupled with a slightly morbid interest in those who gave their lives to Antarctic exploration.  (This is a work in progress...because the list is a long one.)

The following is a growing list of those who lost their lives in Antarctica:

Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912)
Scott is the first person who comes to mind when I think of Antarctic deaths, because his death, and those of his South Pole party epitomized the tragedy of Antarctic exploration.  The first visitors to the continent, and arguably those who work there today sometimes were met by the reality that Antarctica is a dangerous place to be.  He died with companions Wilson and Bowers in a tent around the 29th of March, 1912.  Utterly beaten after losing first the race to the Pole, and then his companions, Scott's story really can't be summed up in a short paragraph.(18)  His last journal entry was simply  "Last entry. For God's sake look after our people." (15)

Edward Wilson (1872 – 1912)
 Wilson was a doctor, zoologist, and artist, as well as seasoned Antarctic explorer.  He took part in the Discovery Expedition and the Terra Nova Expedition, and died with Scott in the great Race to the Pole. (19)

Henry Robertson Bowers (1883-1912)
Robertson was the final member added to Scott's polar expedition, arguably because Scott needed another experienced navigator to confirm their global position and dispel controversy about their arrival at Pole.  Bowers was not new to the Antarctic though, having spent time observing the wintering ground of the Emperor penguins with Wilson and noted Antarctica Apsley Cherry-Garrard.  He died with Wilson and Scott in their tent on March 29, 1912. (20)
Lawrence Oats (1880-1912)
Captain Oats died on the 16 of March with the words "I am just going outside and may be some time."  Following this he walked out into Antarctic blizzard conditions in a self-sacrificing attempt to save his companions lives.  Scott wrote of Oats' death: 
We knew that poor Oates was walking
to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the
act of a brave man and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the
end with a similar spirit, and assuredly the end is not far.(15)

 For his dramatic suicide, Oats has become quite a historic figure, and a well-known character in Antarctic lore. (17)

Edgar Evans(-1912)
Evans was the first member of Scott's expedition to the Pole to die on the return trip, near the foot of Beardmore Glacier. Scott recorded in his journal on February 17th, 1912:  
After lunch, and Evans still not appearing, we looked out,
to see him still afar off. By this time we were alarmed, and all four
started back on ski. I was first to reach the poor man and shocked
at his appearance; he was on his knees with clothing disarranged,
hands uncovered and frostbitten, and a wild look in his eyes. Asked
what was the matter, he replied with a slow speech that he didn't
know, but thought he must have fainted. We got him on his feet, but
after two or three steps he sank down again. He showed every sign of
complete collapse. Wilson, Bowers, and I went back for the sledge,
whilst Oates remained with him. When we returned he was practically
unconscious, and when we got him into the tent quite comatose. He
died quietly at 12.30 A.M. (15)

The party suspected that Evans' death was caused by a fall into a crevasse, and from continued weakening over the return journey.  I read the entirety of Scott's journals, and I swear sometimes I think it was from a blow to the head from Scott, who was clearly very troubled his steady downward spiral.  (16)

 Maxwell A. Lopez (-1946)

On December 30th, 1946, Ensign Maxwell was killed along with two aviation radiomen when the PBM Mariner (patrol bomber plane) George I  went down in a blizzard. The 6 surviving crew members was rescued 13 days later.  Lopez was one of four casualties from Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd's Operation Highjump.  OpHjp's stated goals were extreme cold weather training, establishing American presence in Antarctica, and developing techniques for maintaining bases on the ice. However, many conspiracy theories exist especially concerning remote Nazi bases.  The most outlandish of which includes Hitler faking his death and fleeing to Antarctica via Argentina to resume his life as a painter in a secret ice cave. (5)

 Wendell K. Henderson (-1946)
Radioman killed with Lopez in the George I crash.

Frederick W. Williams (-1946)
Radioman killed with Lopez in the George I crash.

Vance N. Woodall (-1947)
Seaman Vance Woodall was the forth and final casualty from Byrd's Operation Highjump. He was died sometime after the George I crash in a cargo accident on the supplyship USS Yancey. (5)  In a crew profile, deckman Edward Beardsley described his worst memory as "When Seaman Vance Woodall (Kentucky) died on the Ross Ice Shelf (Antarctic) under apiece of Roller Equipment designed to "pave" the ice to build an airstrip." (6) 
Lt. John P. Moore (-1955)
  Moore was a helicopter pilot from the USS Atka who died in a crash near Kainan Bay on 22 June, 1955.  Mount Moore was named in his memory in 1958 by the Marie Byrd Land Traverse Party. (7) (8)

Richard T. Williams (-1955) 
Williams was a construction driver whose bulldoser broke through the sea ice and sank on January 6th, 1956.  His body was never recovered from under the ice.  He was hauling materials meant to build an airstrip to support exploration and the construction of South Pole Station.  The airstrip project was later moved to a different location, which became the currently operating Williams Air Operating Facility, or more fondly "Willie Field."  Besides a propeller memoriam plaque at the airfield, the other memorial to Williams is "Our Lady of the Snow," a statue of Mary in a fashioned grotto which has been repaired by workers over the years, though now stands in more of a cage than a grotto, and is often called "Roll Cage Mary"  in McMurdo landmark fashion.  (9)

Max R. Kiel (-1956)
On March 5th, 1956, Kiel and his D8 tractor fell into a 100 ft. V-shaped crevasse near little America.  His death occurred during Operation Deep Freeze I, which sought to establish permanent bases and advance research goals in Antarctica.  (10) (8)

Lt. David W. Carey (-1956)
On October 18, 1956, pilot Carey and three other members died in a Neptune P2V-2N plane lovingly nicknamed "Boopsie" after one of the pilot's daughters.  He was attempting to land the plane on a McMurdo sound airstrip in whiteout conditions, (which is pretty impossible) During Byrd's Operation Deep Freeze II.  They had taken off from Christchurch, and passed the point of safe return (where there is enough fuel to return to New Zealand) and a storm rolled in.  Carey Glacier was named in his honor.  (11) (8) (12)

Capt. Rayburn A. Hudman(-1956)
Died in the Neptune plane crash with Carey.  Hudman survived the initial impact to die later from severe injuries.  4 others were injured non-fatally. (12)

Marian O. Marze (-1956)
Marze was killed upon impact in the Neptune crash with Carey.

Charles S. Miller (-1956) 
 Miller was killed upon impact in the Neptune crash with Carey.

Ollie B. Bartley (-1957)
Bartley was a Commander who fell through the ice at Hut Point (next to the current McMurdo Station) while driving a Weasel vehicle  on June 20, 1957.  Ollie's death is mentioned esoterically in "James Taylor, his life and music" by Timothy White.  James' father, Issac Taylor, was a doctor and worked a stint for Operation Deep freeze, where he saw the deaths of    Bartley, as well as the fatalities from the Neptune crash.  Bartley was the only member of 5 who was not able to free himself from the sinking weasel, though divers in insulated suits were able to recover his body hours later.  Small world...  (10) (13)(14) 
Nelson R. Cole (-1957)
John G. Biesiada (-2000)
Biesiada was a Jan. 8, 2000 at McMurdo Sation from massive pulmonary embolism from a blood clot which migrated to his lungs from a broken leg. (1)

 Rodney Marks (1968-2000):
 An Australian astrophysicist, Marks had wintered in nineties, and had come back for a repeat winter with girlfriend Sonja Wolter in 2000.   Marks died on May 12, form what the National Science Foundation claims normal causes. (2)  His body was allowed to freeze, and was later buried for the six remaining months of winter season isolation.(1)  The official cause of death as determined by the New Zealand coroner six months later was Methanol poisoning.  Marks was definitely a present in the South Pole drinking culture, but honestly, it is difficult to find a person who isn't. (3)  Marks had come in to the medical wing because he had been vomiting blood and having trouble breathing. He came in two more times that day, complaining of hurting all over, and the doctor sent out for help, unsure what was wrong.  Unfortunately, he was too late.  Marks collapsed and died walking back form the remote observatory where he worked. In memoriam, a mountain in the Worcester Range with a height of 2,600 meters was christened Marks Mountain. (4)  Polie lore claims that not everyone was so fond of Marks, and that he was mixing up moonshine to complement the massive alcohol stores which are flown to the pole every winter.  Murder has long been contemplated as an explanation for Marks' death, which makes it one of the more sensational ends Antarctica has seen.  His death reputedly had nothing to do with all of the reasonable things that should kill a person in Antarctica---climate, accidents, etc.  Murder has definitely not been ruled out by the Pole community.  Each year the winter-overs watch the last plane depart and gather to watch the Shining.  I wouldn't be surprised if Marks' story is related to newbies over a bottle or two of Gilby's vodka.

(8) Great list of Antarctic Service Veteran deaths:
(14) White, Timothy.  "James Taylor, his life and music." p-85-86
 (15) Scott, Robert F. Scott's Last Expedition Volume I, from Project Gutenberg.
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Xavier Ninnis on

That's OatEs (Lawrence Edward Grace).
You left out Nicolai Hanson (d. Oct. 14, 1899), a biologist with the Borchgrevink expedition, and the very first person known to have died on the continent

Rod Rhys Jones on

Here are names of 28 Men and one woman killed in British Antarctic Territory
Oliver Burd and Michael C Green, 9 November 1948, Hope Bay
Killed in hut fire.
Graves in the vicinity of the original hut.
Commemorative place names: Cape Burd & Cape Green, Trinity Peninsula.

Account: Sir Vivien Fuch's account of the accident has been extracted from Of Ice and Men.

Eric Platt, 10 November 1948, Admiralty Bay.
Heart attack.
Grave marked by cross in vicinity of base.
Commemorative place name: Platt Cliffs, King George Island.

Arthur H Farrant, 17 November 1953, Deception Island
Grave in whalers cemetery. Cross was probably washed away or buried by the mud slide caused by the 1969 volcanic eruption.

Ronald G Napier, 24 March 1956, Admiralty Bay
Ronald Napier was drowned when a dinghy overturned. His body was not recovered.
Memorial: there is a cross in vicinity of the base at Admiralty Bay.
Commemorative place name: Napier Rock, King George Island

Stanley E Black, David Statham and Geoffrey Stride, about 27 May 1958, Horseshoe Island
Lost when sea ice broke up during depot laying trip to Dion Islands. A memoire has been written about this accident by David McDowell.. Their bodies were not recovered.
Account: Sir Vivien Fuch's account of the accident has been extracted from Ice and Men .
Memorials: a single Cross on Beacon Hill, Horseshoe Island and plaque at Rothera Point.
Commemorative place names: Black Pass, Statham Peak & Stride Peak, Pourquoi Pas Island.

Alan Sharman, 23 April 1959, Admiralty Bay
Fractured skull following a fall on rocks when out walking.
Memorial: there is a grave marked by cross in vicinity of the base.
Commemorative place name: Sharman Rock, King George Island - but this feature was later found to be non-existent.

Dennis R Bell, 26 July 1959, Admiralty Bay
Crevasse fall.
Memorial: there is a cross in vicinity of the base. His body was not recovered.
Commemorative place name: Bell Point, King George Island.
Memoire: there is a memoire written by Russell Thompson who was with Alan Sharman at the time of the accident and on base when Dennis Bell was killed.

Roger Filer, 13 February 1961, Signy
Fell from cliff while doing ornithology work.
Grave on Pantomime Point.
Commemorative place name: Filer Haven, Signy Island.

Neville S Mann, 15 August 1963, Halley
Lost on sea ice. Neville was part of a two sledge party which became separated in bad weather. His body was not recovered.
Memorial - plaque at Halley Station (body not recovered).

Leading Seamen Reg Hodge and Able Seaman Michael Lane 6 December 1963, HMS Protector
Killed whilst prepping a depth charge for seismic research.
There is a memoire by AB Eddie Large - a shipmate on HMS Protector

Jeremy T Bailey, David P Wild and John K Wilson, 12 October 1965, Halley
Occupants of Muskeg tractor lost in crevasse fall en route to Vestfjella.
Memorials: plaques on Survey Point, Vardeklettane, Heimfrontfjella and at Halley Station. Their bodies were not recovered.
Commemorative place names: Bailey Ice Stream, Baileyranten, Wildskorvene, and Wilsonberga, Dronning Maud Land.
The nunataks close to the crevasse were renamed by the Norwegian Authorities, Mannefallknausane
There is a extract from memories by Dulcie Bailey written about how she received the news of her son's death.
Account: Sir Vivien Fuch's account of the accident has been extracted from Of Ice and Men.

John F Noel and Thomas J Allan, June 1966, Stonington Island
Died of exposure whilst sitting out a storm in a snow hole during field trip, Butson Ridge area. Their graves are on Flagstaff Hill.
Commemorative place names: Mount Noel and Mount Allan, Traverse Mountains on the Rymill Coast.
Sir Vivien Fuch's account of the accident has been extracted from Of Ice and Men.

Geoffrey H Hargreaves, Michael A Walker and Graham J Whitfield, September 1976, Argentine Islands
Lost during return from ascent of Mount Peary. Their bodies were not recovered. There is a memoire by Jim Turton who was on base with them.
Memorial: single cross on Rasmussen Island.
Memoire: Brenda Hellier has written a memoire of her brother Geoffrey Hargreaves.

Miles V Mosley, 2 February 1980, Halley
Miles was hit by low flying aircraft. He was buried at sea.
There is a memoire by Jim Turton who was on the aircraft that killed Miles.
Memorial: plaque at Halley Station.

John H M Anderson and Robert Atkinson, 16 May 1981, Rothera
Crevasse accident on Shamblier Glacier. Their bodies were not recovered.
Memorial: single cross on Rothera Point.

Ambrose C Morgan, Kevin P Ockleton and John Coll, 14 August 1982, Argentine Islands
Lost when sea ice broke up during field trip, Petermann Island area. Their bodies were not recovered
Memorial: there is a single cross on Petermann Island

N J Armstrong (Canada), D N Fredlund (Canada), J C Armstrong (Canada) and E P Odegard (Norway), 23 Nov 1994, Rothera
Kenn Borek Air Ltd aircraft crashed on take off after re-fueling at Rothera.
Memorial at Rothera Point (bodies not recovered).

Kirsty M Brown, 22 July 2003, Rothera
Drowned when attacked by Leopard seal while snorkelling.
Memorial at Rothera Point. Body returned to UK for burial.
Commemorative place name: Kirsty Island, Ryder Bay, Adelaide Island.

View our website for more information.

Xavier Ninnis on

I'm surprised no one has yet noted the list's failure to include Mawson's two sledging companions who didn't make it back, Lieutenant Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis (crevasse fall, 12 December, 1912) and Swiss scientist Dr. Xavier Mertz (Death most probably due to Hypervitaminosis, a result of his having consumed the livers of several of the party's remaining dogs. (The liver of certain animals — including the polar bear, and husky contain lethal amounts of vitamin A) 7 January 7, 1913.)

mesabree on

Xavier and Rod,
thank you for the great comments! I've been living on a archaeological site for some months away from internet, but I'll be sure to update and add to my list when I return to civilization!

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