The remains of polar explorer Dirk ‘Dixie’ Dansercoer, who died in a fall in Greenland on Monday, are unlikely ever to be recovered, according to a spokesperson for the expedition.
Dansercoer, aged 58, set out on 8 May guiding two people, one Dutch woman and one Canadian man, on an expedition across the south of Greenland.
The Dutch woman had to give up after eight days, and Dansercoer carried on with Canadian Sébastien Audy (41). Travelling on sleds equipped with wind-sails, the two made good progress, until Monday evening, when disaster struck.
At this time of year, the underground layers of snow on Greenland become a network of crevices as the snow melts. Dansercoer and his sled passed through a thin layer of surface snow and fell into a metres-deep cavern.
Audy was able to detach himself, but when he looked over the edge of the hole, Dansercoer was not even visible. He called, and there was no response.
After calling Dansercoer’s wife Julie Brown at home in Lubbeek near Leuven, he contacted Eric Bonnem, who was following the expedition from Paris, and he in turn contacted the emergency services.
One of the rescuers who arrived by helicopter descended by rope at least 40m into the hole, and could go no further. Dansercoer’s sled lay a good 25m further down. The man himself could still not be seen.
“It was impossible to go down any deeper,” said Stefan Maes, Dansercoer’s press contacts for many years. And it is unlikely the explorer’s body will be recovered in the future either. “The hole is very deep. It would be an extremely risky operation,” he said.
The army would have to be deployed, and the chances of success are minimal.
Dansercoer’s long-time collaborator, Alain Hubert, paid tribute speaking to Gazet van Antwerpen. Dansercoer was already an athlete, power-cyclist and Iron Man, but he was also an air steward with Sabena, then the national airline.
“Dixie had won a visit to my base camp through Sabena,” said Hubert. “I saw a sporty, enthusiastic guy. It clicked right away. We became friends, but much more than that.”
Hubert and Dansercoer would cross the polar regions from 1995 onwards.
“It is exceptional that two people experience so many expeditions together. But we complemented each other: we were a perfect team. Dixie is called an adventurer in the media, but that’s a bad word. He is a polar guide, as only the best can. The abilities he has are rare. He learns from his mistakes and he is always extremely careful.”
The two have not worked together for a decade, but they had plans in the offing.
“My time was taken up with the Princess Elisabeth station in Antarctica. But we kept in touch. I telephoned him in May, just before he was due to leave on this expedition. He was already in Greenland at the time. We had plans to go on an expedition again soon. The two of us together. Through the Arctic. Through the area we both love so much.”