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SFAR in the service of scientific research

Excerpt from: Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, 1939 to 1970. Published in Zurich in 1972


Geological studies usually go hand in hand with the opening up of an area by mountain climbing and topographical mapping. These geological studies might take the form of reconnaissance, or systematic mapping. The aims of the early expeditions undertaken by the Foundation for Alpine Research were clearly related to mountaineering. However, if geologists combined a love for their profession with a passion for climbing mountains, they were presented with an opportunity to travel with mountaineers whilst simultaneously gaining knowledge of the geological conditions in remote areas. The Swiss Everest Expedition in March-July 1952, under the leadership of Dr. Edouard Wyss-Dunant, included a scientific working group from the University of Geneva, as well as mountaineers. The geologists Augustin Lombard and Daniel Krummenacher published their geological investigations, and these works formed a valuable basis for subsequent mountain climbing planning work. In addition, they also enabled the Indian Air Force’s unusually revealing aerial photographs of Mount Everest to be interpreted geologically.


Other geological work supported by the Foundation involved the long-term research programmes undertaken by Fritz Müller in Axel-Heiberg Land (Canada) and August Gansser in Bhutan.


The expeditions to Axel-Heiberg Land are described in the Glaciology section. Thanks to support from the Foundation, several students of geology also worked on this project, as part of the overall programme.


Peter Fricker recorded the geology of the expedition area on a large-scale map.


Based on a three-year expedition project, Hans Ulrich Maag prepared a dissertation on lakes dammed by glaciers, and on the mechanism involved in the emptying of water from these lakes (Geographical Institute of the University of Zurich, 1967).


Max Kälin carried out two years of field work to collect the material for a dissertation on moraine deposits in front of an advancing arctic glacier. This work was examined by the Geological Institute at the ETH.


During three summer expeditions to Axel-Heiberg Land, Toni Caflisch prepared a dissertation on arctic lake sediments.


The name August Gansser appears in various contexts within the Foundation’s records. August Gansser accompanied Arnold Heim on an exploratory trip to the Himalayas in 1936. This expedition was valuable in prompting the establishment of the Foundation for Alpine Research. Following his election as Professor of Geology at the ETH and at the University of Zurich in 1958, there was an intensification of the relationship between Prof. Gansser and our Foundation. Prof. Gansser gained an introduction to the King of Bhutan in 1967, and was offered the unique opportunity of carrying out geological research in Bhutan during several small expeditions.


As well as supporting geological expedition projects, we also provided support for Martin Frey and Volker Dietrich by contributing to the costs of printing their dissertations relating to Alpine geology

Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research . Schweizerische Stiftung für Alpine Forschung . Fondation Suisse pour Recherches Alpines . Fondazione Svizzera per Ricerche Alpine