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Die Bergung

The Recovery

Friday, September 20, 1991
The day after the corpse was discovered, an Austrian team undertook the first attempt to remove the man from the ice. By then the weather had decidedly taken a turn for the worse. Using a pneumatic drill, the gendarme Anton Koler and the mountain refuge keeper Markus Pirpamer tried to free the corpse. Due to the constant flow of meltwater, the two men were obliged to work virtually under water, resulting in damage to the corpse’s left hip. With the weather worsening by the minute and lacking the necessary tools, the team were forced to abandon their work.

Saturday, September 21, 1991

The next day attempts at recovering the corpse were again hindered – this time due to the fact that no helicopters were available. On that day the world-famous mountaineers Hans Kammerlander and Reinhold Messner happened to be on the scene. They observed the first details of the dead man’s clothing and equipment.

Sunday, September 22, 1991

On Sunday the rescue team leader Alois Pirpamer and Franz Gurschler made their way to the Tisenjoch. Their aim was to prepare the corpse for recovery the following day. They collected the strewn objects and packed them in a plastic rubbish bag. The very same day Alois Pirpamer returned to his hotel in Vent with the sack slung over his shoulder.


Monday, September 23, 1991

On the Monday the corpse was finally extracted from the ice. Snow had fallen overnight, the temperature had dropped precipitously, and the corpse was once again frozen solid in ice. The recovery was carried out under the leadership of Rainer Henn of Innsbruck University Institute of Forensic Medicine, with cameras capturing the event. As no archaeologist was present, the filmed footage proved to be an important record.
Using ice picks and ski poles, the team managed to free the mummy fully from the ice. From the meltwater emerged numerous pieces of leather and hide, string, straps and clumps of hay, which were placed in a pile beside the corpse.
The corpse was packed in a body bag along with the latest finds and flown by helicopter to the town of Vent in the Austrian Ötz Valley.
In Vent the mummy and the finds – together with those collected by Alois Pirpamer the previous day and the axe taken earlier to the gendarmerie post in Sölden – were placed in a wooden coffin. At the request of the public prosecutor, the corpse was taken by hearse to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck.