Thomas E. Berg

(1933-1969)

geologist Tom Berg

When Thomas E. Berg was killed in a helicopter crash in Taylor Valley on November 19, 1969, he was beginning the final field season of a 10-year long investigation of patterned-ground phenomena in Antarctica. The program, begun in 1959 by Professor Robert F. Black, University of Wisconsin, was one of the first long-term studies initiated after the close of the International Geophysical Year and the commencement of the U.S. Antarctic Research Program. During each summer, a field party, usually headed by Black or Berg, has made direct measurements of the growth of several hundred ice and sand wedges, and collected complementary micrometeorological data and soil samples. In 1961, Berg was a member of the wintering-over USARP party at McMurdo Station.

Thomas E. Berg was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1933. He attended public schools in Onalaska, Wisconsin, where his parents and surviving brother make their home. After graduating from high school in 1951, he attended LaCrosse State College for two years. His college study was interrupted by two years of service in the U.S. Navy as a radar man in the Pacific area. Upon his discharge, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, where he obtained a B.S. in geology in 1957 and expected to receive a Ph.D. in geology in 1970.

In 1965, Berg joined the Research Council of Alberta. As a research officer for the Council, he conducted investigations on surficial deposits of the Medicine Hat area, engaged in permafrost research in Alberta, and studied the geology of the City of Edmonton and its environs. He participated in the Steele Glacier Expedition to the Yukon in 1967-1968.

Thomas Berg was an exceptional field worker. Among his foremost personal traits was an untiring enthusiasm, perseverance, and unflagging spirit under trying conditions. His competence, enthusiasm, and friendly disposition earned him the respect and friendship of all who knew him. Berg is survived by his wife, Barbara, his parents, a brother and two sisters.


The above obituary appeared in the January/February 1970 issue of the Antarctic Journal. Elsewhere in that issue, the crash was described:

During a trip on November 19, the engine of the helicopter in which Mr. Berg was flying, failed. The pilot brought it down by auto- rotation of the rotor blades, but it landed on Mount McLennan and slid some 700 feet down the slope. Of the eight persons on board, six escaped, but Mr. Berg and Mr. Jeremy Sykes, a New Zealand cameraman making a documentary film, died. An obituary of Mr. Berg is presented on p. 7 [seen above on this web page]. On November 22, memorial services for the deceased were held in the theatre at McMurdo Station.

In December 1970, the Berg Field Center was rededicated in his memory.