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Roderick Hutchinson, Yellowstone geologist, dies at 49

March 7, 1997

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) _ Roderick Hutchinson, a Yellowstone National Park geologist and national expert on geysers and hot springs, was found dead, apparently buried in an avalanche while skiing in the park, authorities said. He was 49.

Hutchinson’s body was found Thursday, several days after the avalanche near Heart Lake in the southern part of the park, officials said today.

He and a female park volunteer were on a cross-country ski trip during an outing to study a small geyser basin. The woman has not been found yet, officials said.

Hutchinson accumulated his encyclopedic knowledge of the park’s thousands of thermal features over nearly 30 years of work.

``Nobody loved Yellowstone more, or was more wholly devoted to embracing its spirit and caring for its wonders,″ said park superintendent Mike Finley. ``Rick touched many lives here, and will not be forgotten.″

Hutchinson often hiked or skied into the park’s backcountry to monitor the geological and thermal forces that affect the world’s best-known _ but not entirely understood _ system of geysers, hot springs and mud pots.

After a swarm of small earthquakes shook the park in 1995 and 1996, Hutchinson noted that the frequency and strength of geyser eruptions began changing, even affecting the frequency of eruptions of the Old Faithful geyser.

``It’s hard to think of something that regular and that periodic that might be running a natural system,″ he said in June 1995. ``Maybe it’s something we don’t understand yet, or maybe it’s connected to something very simple, like a delivery truck driving by every week.″

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