William J. Cromie

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William J. Cromie (b.1930, d.2015), spent a year in Antarctica during the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year (IGY), during which he and five companions made a 1,450-mile traverse over previously unexplored areas of the Ross Ice Shelf, the world's largest ice sheet. During this IGY stay at Little America 5, he also established an oceanographic station and did seismic and glaciological research. A peak of the Queen Maud Mountains, 300 miles from the South Pole, was named in his honor.

Cromie left Antarctica in 1958 to participate in another IGY effort, a study of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. He served as an oceanographer and first officer aboard the research vessel Vema, a three-masted schooner operated by Columbia University.

In 1959, he worked with other Columbia U. scientists to map the floor of the Arctic Ocean from a floating area of ice known as Station Charlie. This station drifted on ocean currents from the coast of Siberia toward the North Pole, before the ice that supported it broke apart.

In 1960-61, Cromie was a fellow at Columbia's Advanced Science Writing where he switched to a career as a journalist. During this career, he covered the Mohole Project, an unsuccessful attempt to drill a hole through the crust of the Earth, and the manned space program, the successful attempt to put men on the moon and to establish the first U.S. space station. Through the years 1961 to 1987, Cromie published six books, wrote news stories for many newspapers and magazines in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and served as executive director of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Cromie went back to school as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1987-88. After graduation, he edited the MIT Report magazine then wrote science news stories for Harvard University. He retired from Harvard in 2007 at age 77.

A fascination with the sea lured Cromie to run away from home to work aboard an ocean-going freighter at 15 years of age. He sailed all over the world as a seaman, cook, and engineer during the next five years.

A newly established program at Columbia, allowing people who never finished high school to apply for college, attracted Cromie during a shipping strike in 1950. It took six years, interrupted by the war in Korea, before he graduated with a B.S. in geology, the first Columbia student to do so without attending high school.

Uranium was a valuable mineral to find in 1956, and Cromie quickly found a job as a prospector in Colorado. Later, he switched to work in the copper and gold mines of Butte, Montana. With a degree in geology, a former marine engineer, and experience with dynamite in the mines, a necessity for seismic exploration, Cromie became a good candidate for research work in the Antarctica.

Logo images are details of (left to right): WJC45 William J. Cromie checks maps, WJC8 Sno-cat with crevasse detector, WJC27 Seismic explosion set-off by Ross Ice Shelf Traverse (RIST) group, WJC83 Little America V supplies wait to be moved, WJC135 Pack ice and WJC149 Emperor penguin, largest one, to about 4-feet tall. 1957. William J. Cromie.


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