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Max Demarest: Encyclopedia Arctica 15: Biographies
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Max Demarest

(William H. Hobbs)


Max (Harrison) Demarest (1910-1942). Scientist and Greenland
Explorer. Specialist in structure of glacial ice.
Max Demarest was born at Flint, Michigan, February 18, 1910, the son
of Harry and Mabel Slayton Demarest. His father was official stenographer
of the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court at Michigan. Max, after graduation
from the Flint Junior College, entered the University of Michigan in 1929,
where he specialized in geology. He was graduated from that University in
1934 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. While still an undergraduate he
was appointed an assistant in the Geological Department of the University.
In the year 1930-1931 (summer to summer) he went to Greenland as meteorolo–
gist of the Northern Party of the Third University of Michigan Greenland
Expedition, which was led by William S. Carlson. This party was based at
Angparlartok near Upernivik in about latitude 73° N. Their experiences
there have been described in a book by the leader ( Greenland Lies North ,
New York, Macmillan, p. 306, illus., 1940). Demarest was next in Greenland
in 1932-33 as meteorologist of the University of Michigan-Pan American
Airways Expedition under the leadership of Dr. Ralph L. Belknap. The base
(Peary Lodge) was on the Upper Nugsuak Peninsula of Northwest Greenland.
In both this and the earlier expedition Demarest had charge of the aerological
work, daily pilot-baloon ascents for study of the upper air currents. On the

EA-Biog. Hobbs: Max Demarest

later of these expeditions he was navigator of the sledge party in the
difficult journey which accomplished the relief of Belknap from a seven
weeks' vigil at Camp Watkins, which was about three hundred miles to the
east on the inland ice.
After his graduation in 1934 Demarest took up graduate study in
geology at the University of Cincinnati and was given the degree of Master
of Science in 1936. In 1934 he had married, at Cincinnati, Rebecca Humphreys.
He continued his graduate studies at Princeton University, where he held the
position of Assistant Instructor, and where he received the degree of Doctor
of Philosophy in 1938. He was then appointed Assistant Professor of Geology
at the University of North Dakota. Here he began his studies of the structure
of glacial ice and the nature of its motion, studies which with interruptions
he continued until his death in 1942.
On a Guggonheim Fellowship this research was vigorously pursued at
Yale University as Sterling Fellow of the University and National Research
Fellow in geology. After two years of research at Yale University, Demarest
was called to Wesleyan University at Middletown, Ct., as Acting Chairman of
the Department of Geology.
In 1942 Demarest was commissioned First Lieutenant in the United
States Air Force, and by air transport he left for Greenland in July on a
secret mission. In the following December news of his death in Greenland
was given out by the War Department. It was later to be learned that he
had been killed, together with Staff Sergeant Don T. Tetley, when, in an
attempt to rescue the crew of a Flying Fortress which had crashed on the
inland ice of East Greenland, their motor sled had broken through the snow
bridge over a crevasse, precipitating them to the bottom far below. When,
much later, a rescue party had reached the scene of the accident, the tail

EA-Biog. Hobbs: Max Demarest

of the wrecked tractor could be seen, but the bodies of the two officers
were never recovered. Demarest left a widow and a five-year old daughter.
Mrs. Demarest had been able to assist her husband in his research on ice.
Demarest was regarded as one of the outstanding scientists in his
field of glacial research. He was a Fellow of the Geological Society of
America, member of the American Geophysical Union, the International Committee
on Snow, and the Explorer's Club. His portrait, painted by Mrs. Patricia
H. Stratton, hangs in the Geological Department of the University of Michigan.
Publications by Dr. Demarest are the following:
Glaciation of the Upper Nugsuak Peninsula, West Greenland, Zeitsch. f.Gletscherkunde
36-56, 2 ple., 2 figs., inclu. index map, 1937. Ice flowage as revealed
by glacial striae. Jour. Geol ., 46 , 700-725, 13 figs., 1938. Glacial Research
for an expedition to North Greenland. Amer. Geophys. Union Trans . 19th Ann.
Mett. Pt. U, 492-497, 1 fig. map Nat. Research Council, 1938. Glacial movement s
and erosion; a criticism. Amer. Jour. Sci ., 237 , 594-605, 1939. The rock called
ice, New York Acad. Sci. Trans. , ser. 2, 3 , 25-28, 1940. Critical structural
features of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyo., Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull. 52 , 161-176,
4 pls. inclu. geol. maps, 3 figs., 1941. (With R. F. Flint, and A. L. Washburn)
Glaciation of Shickshock Mountains, Gaspe Peninsula (Abstract) Geol. Soc. Amer .
Bull ., 52 , 1901, 1941. Greenland's glacial anticyclone; a review, Amer. Jour .
Sci ., 239 , 771-778, 1941. Ice deformation in the flow of glaciers (abstract)
Amer. Geophys. Union, Trans. 22nd Ann. Mtg. , Pt. 2, p. 525; Nat. Research Council ,
Aug. 1941; Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull. , 52 , p. 1897, 1941. Techniques for making thin
section studies of glacier ice (abstract) Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull ., 52 , p. 2013,
1941. Glacier flow and its bearing on the classification of gvlaciers (abstract)
Geol. Soc. Amer ., Bull. , 52, 2024-2025, 1941. (With R. F. Flint) Glacier thinning
during deglaciation, pt. I, Amer. Jour. Sci. , 240, 29-66, 1942. Ice sheets,
Geol. Soc. Amer ., Bull. , 54 , 363-400, 1 pl., 16 figs. 1943 (published posthumously).
William H. Hobbs
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