At the end of the world: permanent and annual exhibition
World of ice
The museum in Sulden am Ortler, an underground structure at 1900 m above sea-level, is devoted to the world of ice. “At the end of the world” we call it. That is what it says on a 1771 map drawn by Peter Anich showing the glacier on the Ortler, beneath which the Ice Museum is located. At MMM Ortles Reinhold Messner tells of the Terrors of Ice and Darkness, Snow People and Snow Lions, the Whiteout and the Third Pole. The museum houses the world’s biggest collection of Ortler paintings as well as ice-climbing gear from two centuries. Skiing, ice-climbing and expeditions to the Poles are the themes. Visitors find themselves inside the mountain, where they are given a clear picture of ice mountains, the Arctic and Antarctic, the power of avalanches, and the pains taken by artists to depict the world of ice. Outside, the ice is very real, and round the corner the Yak&Yeti offers fine fare from the snows of the Himalayas as well as the typical dishes of South Tyrol.
Film: “The Race to the South Pole”
In 1916, an expedition led by Ernest Shackleton was stranded on Elephant Island on the fringe of the Antarctic. When their ship Endurance was crushed in the ice pack and sank, the 28 shipwrecks spent months drifting on ice floes. Shackleton’s journey to South Georgia to get rescue – crossing 1500 km of the world’s most difficult seas in a small open boat – and his march over the ice-capped mountains of South Georgia constitute one of the great acts of heroism in human history. But it was even more difficult for Frank Wild to prevent the 21 men condemned to spend a desperate winter on Elephant Island from committing collective suicide.
The three poles – the North Pole, Mount Everest (alias the East Pole) and the South Pole – symbolize the end of the world, the end in the north, the end in the sky and the end in the south. They are all covered with snow, and they are cold and mostly stormy places. As prestigious goals, they are the ultimate focus of human vanity – although it is very uncomfortable there.
Like a glacier crevasse
Together with the architect Arnold Gapp, Reinhold Messner has created a unique museum. The South Tyrolean architect has located most of the museum inside a hill next to an old farmhouse which is now an inn by the name of Yak & Yeti. Access to the museum is via an opening in a retaining wall built to support the hill, which is covered with slabs of stone. A short ramp takes visitors into the depths of a man-made cavern built of fair-faced concrete. The high interior is illuminated by a skylight in the form of continuous ribbon of glass that interrupts the surface of the upper floor like the line of a crevasse. At one point, the opening offers a direct view of the snowy peak of the Ortler with its mountain-top glacier.