Stanford Magazine
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Stanford Magazine

Bullets, Blood and Ice

A professor-prospector’s gritty lessons from the land.

HOME TURF: Bird on his property in California’s Gold Country. (Photo: Patrick Tehan)
Photo: Patrick Tehan

He once had to be pulled off an ice face by his partners when he lost a crampon midway up and refused to jettison his pack because his notebooks were inside.

MOUNTAIN MAN: From top: Bird, left, on the West Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley with climbing partner Jim Hoagland in 1973; Bird in the aftermath of the mountain lion attack in 1971; camping in the Sierra Nevada with his three children in 1990. [Photos: Courtesy Dennis Bird (3)]

‘He helped me realize I could make a contribution to understanding the beautiful mysteries of our planet.’

‘We were attracted to Dennis’s lifestyle, which was a mixture of top-quality science and a rather hippielike atmosphere of colorful equipment, Tex-Mex food and guns.’

72 DEGREES NORTH: While prospecting for copper in eastern Greenland in 2013 and 2014, Bird was dropped by helicopter into remote areas for a week at a time (above) and then returned to base camp (below) to clean up, eat and catch up on note-taking. (Photos: Courtesy Dennis Bird (top); Jakob Lautrup)
GLACIAL PACE? Bird slides on sea ice at the Kangerlussuaq Fjord in eastern Greenland in 1990. Continental crust on the left, flood basalts on the right and the famed Skaergaard Intrusion in the middle are geological proof of how the North Atlantic Ocean formed 60 million years ago. (Photo: Bob Gannicott)
VIEW FINDER: During Bird’s first expedition to Greenland in 1981, no maps existed of the area in which they worked, so the team made its own using surveying equipment. (Courtesy: Dennis Bird)

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