THE CLIMATIC FLYWHEEL
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all.
-- Joni Mitchell, "Both Sides, Now"
So halcyon was the late-summer weather of 1991 on the Tyrolean border between Austria and Italy that a German couple named Simon extended their climbing vacation another day. The two were at 10,500 feet and heading down toward their lodge after successfully negotiating the area's second-largest peak when they spotted the upper part of a body protruding from the ice. It lay facedown in a small depression and appeared to be naked.
Police, working under the watchful eyes of curious onlookers, made two unsuccessful attempts to free the body during the next few days. Since it had obviously been in place for some time, most assumed it to be that of another unlucky climber who had met with an accident, perhaps decades earlier.
Four days after its discovery, the corpse was finally freed by Dr. Rainer Henn, head of the Forensics Department at the nearby University of Innsbruck, who had been flown to the site by helicopter under a court order. The none too delicate extraction was performed with a ski pole and ice ax in front of television crews drawn by intriguing rumors that the body might actually be several centuries old.