Interview of Norbert Untersteiner by Brian Shoemaker
Creators:Untersteiner, Norbert, 1926-
Subjects (LCSH):Arctic exploration -- Interviews
Arctic regions -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Sea ice -- Arctic Ocean
Subjects (Other):Untersteiner, Norbert, 1926- -- Interviews
International Geophysical Year (IGY) (1957-1958)
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program
Series/Report no.:Polar Oral History Program
Dr. Untersteiner was raised in Austria. In 1931, his father took him to Spitsbergen. This trip and reading books about explorers of the polar regions influenced him to work in polar regions. He describes life in Austria under the Nazis. After World War II, he was employed by the American Occupation Troops to run errands after living in difficult conditions in Vienna. He was a student at the University of Vienna, and then transferred to the University of Innsbruck. In the summer, he worked with the Austrian Alpine Club to survey glaciers. After completing his doctorate in geophysics and astronomy, he accepted an apprenticeship with a Vienna radio station. After becoming an assistant at the University, Dr. Untersteiner was involved in a heat balance study, and in foliation studies in the Alps. He was a member of a team to study heat balance, moisture balance, and radiation on mountains in East Pakistan. After difficulties in obtaining a position, he was employed by the University of Washington, for the U. S. Northern Hemisphere Glaciology Program. Many studies on mountain glaciers and on ice floes are described in detail. The various problems of delivering supplies by airplanes are included. The problems of evacuating people and supplies from an ice floe (Ice Station Alpha) that is breaking up were challenging. On Ice Station Alpha II, he and his associates made physical measurements for a complete one year cycle. From some of this work, the Ekman Spiral was developed. Dr. Untersteiner used this data for a comprehensive paper on heat and mass balance of melt ice. Conditions at ARLIS II are compared to others. U.S. Submarines and Russian submarines added mystery to the work of a few persons on Ice Station Alpha II. The development of AIDJEX (The Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment) started in the late 1960s. After a short stay as Director of the Office of Ocean Programs for NOAA, he returned to the University of Washington as Director of the Polar Science Center. Before leaving AIDJEX in 1978, he received a grant to start the Arctic Data Buoy Program. In 1988, Dr. Untersteiner accepted the position of chairman of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and retired in 1997. In 1992, he accepted membership on the U.S.A. Environmental Task Force to advise the CIA. Later, it was converted to MEDEA. He cites some work of MEDEA. He summarizes some of the early history of the Polar Research Board, National Research Councils and the usefulness of the meetings. He was in charge of the research plan for the Hansen Drift Station established by the International Research Council. In 1999, he accepted the position of Chapman Professor of Physical Science at the University of Alaska. In conclusion, he said “it was a very good time to be a scientist.” Major Topics 1. Early interest in polar studies kindled by a trip to Spitsbergen when he was five years old. 2. He describes living conditions at the University of Vienna for students after 1945. 3. His first position was weather forecaster for a radio station. 4. Early work studying ice melt is discussed. 5. Difficulty in conducting research and living on an ice floe is discussed. 6. The moving ice of the glacier made it necessary to more the Jamesways, and to build a new runway. The Jamesways were difficult to move. 7. The purpose of the camp on the glacier was to make measurements for a one year cycle. 8. He describes an incident with some crew members of a US submarine on the Ice Station Alpha. 9. The development of a Geophysics Department is described. 10. His role in designing the mission of AIDJEX is summarized. Cooperation with other research groups made the program more comprehensive. 11. He became Director of the Office of Ocean Programs for NOAA. He describes his disappointment with the position and returned to his faculty position in Seattle, and became Director of the Polar Science Center. 12. In the 1990s, he accepted a position on an Environmental Task Force which involved advising the CIA and a member of MEDEA.
Key Individuals Mentioned 1. His father, _____ Untersteiner, M.D.—p.1, 2, 3 2. Richard Fensterwalter—p.7 3. Professor Viatorres—p.7 4. Professor Schotts—p.7 5. Professor Heinz von Ficker—p.8, 9 6. Herfried Hoinkes—p.10 7. Hans Almann—p.10 8. Karl Christian Wallen—p.10 9. Walter Schawarzacher—p.11, 14 10. Bullock Workman—p.11 11. Heinrich Herald—p.12 12. Walter Brendel—p.13 13. Alfred Hoikes—p.13 14. Colin Bull—p.14 15. David Elliott—p.14 16. Robert Sharp—p.14, 15 17. Bert Crary—p.15, 17, 89 18. Mildred Crary—p.19 19. Harry Wexler—p.15, 16 20. Richard Hubley—p.16, 23 21. Chuck Sterns—p. 17 22. Phil Church—p.18, 22, 31, 41, 42, 108 23. Arne Hansen—p.18, 20, 35, 36, 38, 43, 46 24. Joe Fletcher—p.19, 57, 60, 70, 90, 91 25. Father Tom Cunningham—p.19 26. Fritz Awe—p.19, 23, 28 27. Morris Davidson—p.20, 77 28. Ken Hunkins—p.20, 22, 28, 37, 38, 39, 40, 56, 57 29. Terrence McDonald—p.20, 84 30. Lt. Colonel Stromquist—p.20 31. Joe Smith—p.20 32. Joseph Bilotta—p.20 33. Brian Freeman—p.20, 21 34. John Sader—p.24 35. Charlie Keeler—p.24 36. Tom English—p.26, 37 37. Frank Badgley—p.28 38. Bill Campbell—p.29, 36 39. George Cvijanovich—p.35 40. Walfried Ekman—p.38, 39, 40 41. Wieland Bieckness (?)—p.39 42. Hal Brayton—p.43 43. Max Brewer—p.44, 45, 53 44. Art Leckenbrook—p.46 45. Lawson Brigham—p.47 46. Major Joe Belota—p.48, 49 47. Jack Calvert—p.49 48. Sir Hubert Wilkins—p.52, 53 49. Lowell Thomas Sr.—p.52, 53, 54 50. Peter Froekin—p.52, 53 51. Bernt Balchen —p.53, 54 52. Prof. Charles Raymond—p.55 53. Allen Thorndike—p.55, 70, 71, 80 54. Gary Baker—p.55 55. Sam Kolbeck—p.55 56. Walt Whitman—p.55, 92 57. Admiral Bowen —p.57 58. Richard Goodie—p.58 59. Suki Manave—p.58, 62 60. Brooks Brian—p.58 61. Ned Ostenso—p.58, 62, 74 62. Bill Swenbeck—p.58 63. Dick Waters—p.59 64. Ross Burent—p.59, 60 65. Kurt Bryan—p.62, 63 66. Bert Boleen—p.63 67. John Kutzba—p.63 68. Joe Smagerinski—p.63 69. Jule Charney—p.63 70. Admiral Tom Owen—p. 65, 66, 67 71. Brian Shoemaker—p.1, 52, 64, 68, 69, 100 72. Dick Schauss—p.68, 69 73. Admiral Geiger—p.71, 72, 94, 96 74. Admiral Bachokle—p.72 75. Waldo Ryan—p.72, 73 76. Elliott Weinberg—p.74 77. Ferris Webster—p.74, 76 78. George Beckman—p.77, 82 79. Drew Rothrock—p.71, 77 80. Jamie Morrison—p.77 81. Dick Trobridge—p.77 82. Reid Parmutter—p.77 83. Jim Evans—p.77 84. Gary Macutt—p.77 85. Tom Grenfell—p.77 86. Bob Brown—p.70, 77 87. Ben Vogel—p.78 88. Bo Buck—p.78, 79 89. Roger Colony—p.78 90. Jim Baker—p.80, 81, 82 91. Ross Heath—p.82 92. Gordon McDonald—p.84 93. Al Gore—p.84 94. Walter Monk—p.85 95. Rita Coburn—p.88 96. Larry Gould—p.89 97. Paul Palmeroy—p.89 98. Nick Washburn—p.89 99. Bill Keel—p.89 100. Tom Jones—p.90, 91 101. Bob Rutford—p.71, 91 102. Ed. Todd—p.91, 97 103. Peter Wilkness—p.91, 92 104. Sherry Abbott—p.91, 92 105. Trishnakov—p.95 106. Ron McGregor—p.96, 97 107. Max Britten—p.96 108. Sydney Chapman—p.100, 109 109. Keith Roncort—p.100 110. Dr. Sofoo—p.101
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.