In a few studies, researchers used ground penetrating radar to detect hidden crevasses in alpine regions. Since the cavity of the crevasse refracts and reflects differently than the surround snow, the ground penetrating radar can determine the location of crevasses.

Why isn't this practice expanded and more widely used. It seems possible to design an autonomous drone which has a ground penetrating radar and then map out highly trafficked regions that are known to contain hidden crevasses. Over a course of weeks and months, it should be possible to completely map out the trafficked regions and publish maps of where crevasses are located. Periodically, the snow bridges over the crevasses could also be collapsed with some kind of charge dropped by the drone.

  • 2
    And how much will this whole effort cost, and how will it be paid for?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


Glaciers move, some quite quickly, up to 40 m (~130 feet) per day. As the glacier moves over terrain, crevasses open and close based on local pressures in the glacier (e.g. as it passes over a lump of rock, you might get crevasses opening at the peak and downstream sides, but closing where it starts to curve up over the rock).

The opening and closing mean that with the rate of movement, the presence of a particular crevasse on any given day is no guarantee and we have no way of permanently tracking a particular crevasse (though you possibly could with fixed position cameras and some object-tracking software). It isn't like a maze/labyrinth where you can thread your way between crevasses and reach your destination without your way being blocked by other crevasses or other features of glaciers such as seracs.

In addition, glacier travel involves assessing the presence of crevasses and the condition of any snow/ice that might cover any crevasse to ensure that it is thick enough and in good enough condition that you can cross safely. Mapping a (constantly changing) crevasse field still doesn't remove the risk that snow/ice bridges over them are in poor condition and might collapse.

  • This is the right answer, but it does make me wonder if a device could be created for guides to use that could detect them as they advance on glaciated surfaces. For those who don't know, this is currently done by using an avalanche probe (a long, collapsible pole).
    – furtive
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 19:09

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