A Huge Antarctic Glacier Has Been Quietly Renamed After A Sexual Harassment Scandal

Slow moving, but unstoppable. axily/Shutterstock, IreneArt/Shutterstock

Katie Spalding 19 Sep 2018, 17:30

Antarctica, the best approximation this accursed globe has to the ends of the Earth, is a mysterious and isolated desert. With no settled communities and a terrain that, until very recently, was more foreign to us than that of Mars, it's been left to generations of ill-fated explorers and intrepid geologists to, quite literally, get their names on the map – and, should the contents of their minds, hearts, or pockets prove them worthy, it's the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN) that makes it official.

Back in 1994, the BGN decided to name a glacier in Antarctica's Victoria Land region Marchant Glacier, after David Marchant, a University of Maine researcher who had worked on a project [PDF] mapping the nearby geology.

But, nearly a quarter of a century later, the honor has been revoked. Marchant Glacier is now Matataua Glacier – and we may have science's very own "Me Too" movement to thank for that. 

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By 1999, Marchant was an assistant professor at Boston University (BU), and Jane Willenbring was a 22-year-old graduate student working with him on a field expedition to the Antarctic.

"Most days, I would listen to long discussions about how I was a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore,’" Willenbring told BU investigators. If she objected, she said, "he would call me a liar and say, ‘There’s no place in science for liars, is there Jane?’"

Willenbring, now an associate professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, first filed a complaint about Marchant's disturbing behavior in 2016, reports Earther – waiting, in a display of depressingly necessary prudence, until after she received tenure to avoid professional reprisals. Marchant had subjected her to verbal and physical harassment, she said, shoving her down slopes, telling her to have sex with his "porn-sized" brother, and even throwing rocks at her when she urinated – when she developed a urinary tract infection from her attempts to avoid this, she alleges, Marchant refused to let her return to base for treatment.

"His taunts, degrading comments about my body, brain, and general inadequacies never ended," another victim told ScienceMag. "Every day was terrifying."

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