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Studying sea ice was life's calling

Hochheim's Arctic trips worried family

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/9/2013 (1416 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

KLAUS Hochheim was born in a city covered with snow half the year, but the cold did not deter him. In fact, he turned his love of frozen water into his life's work.

Hochheim's father, Peter, said he doesn't know how a Prairie boy born hundreds of kilometres from salt water became so interested in sea ice, but he knows studying it was his son's calling.

"He loved his work," Peter said on Tuesday. "I don't know how he got his love for ice, but he did. Maybe it was the one year he spent with a surveyor's crew in Nova Scotia before he went to the University of Winnipeg.

"I taught all my kids to choose a job that you like. That is your calling. I don't know how he got his love for ice, but he loved his work."

'I don't know how he got his love for ice, but he loved his work'-- Peter Hochheim, victim's father

Hochheim went on to become an expert in sea-ice climatology with the University of Manitoba's Centre for Earth Observation Science.

But while Hochheim loved going to the Arctic for research, Peter said the family would worry.

"He went up there a lot. I was always afraid something like this would happen, but it was an act of God. We don't know what happened yet. All we know we have got from the media."

Hochheim said his son was born and raised in Winnipeg, the middle child of three brothers. He went to Princess Margaret School and then River East Collegiate before going to the University of Winnipeg, where he received his bachelor of arts degree in geography. He later received his master's and PhD in geography at the University of Manitoba.

Hochheim said his daughter-in-law received the news about her husband's death from a university colleague who went to their house at midnight on Monday. He said the close-knit family is finding solace through their religion.

"We are Christians. We are believing people. We know there are things you can't change by yourself."

Hochheim is also being mourned by his work family.

Gary Stern, the associate director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science, said he talked to Hochheim last week before his colleague flew to the Arctic to join the Amundsen for about a month.

"We were just talking about our work we would be doing in the next few months... and he was talking to an administrative person yesterday arranging for his flight back," Stern said.

"He was a very nice guy. He was a family man. We have 100 people here, but we all work closely together here. We're all tight.

"These aren't just colleagues, these are our friends."

Stern said he doesn't know why the helicopter went down, but he can guess why Hochheim was on it with the ship's captain.

"He was on the ship because of his expertise on sea ice. Because the ship is moving into the McClure Strait, an area with ice, you can't always count on satellites, so they will actually take the helicopter out in front of the ship to make sure they can take the ship through there safely.

"And the captain usually goes, too, because he's the one who has to make the decision to go through.

"It's fun to fly over the ice, but there is an inherent danger being up there."

Stern said from his own past trips to the Arctic, he knew the ship's captain, Marc Thibault, for years as he rose through the ranks to command the vessel.


Read more by Kevin Rollason.


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