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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Arctic Messages

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Monday, December 23, 2013/Categories: environment, climate change

We've read stories about a guy lost on a desert island tossing a note in a bottle into the waves hoping to be rescued. It wouldn't have been obvious that a similar note might have alerted the future about climate change.

In 1959, two researchers, Albert Crary and Paul Walker, were on an expedition exploring Ward Hunt Island in Canada's high Arctic. They finished their glacial measurements, built a cairn of rocks, wrote a note describing conditions in their vicinity, and put the message in a bottle with instructions for anyone who might find it in the future. They asked the discoverer to record changes they observed and mail new measurements to designated addresses.

Ward Hunt Island Expedition (credit: Wikicommons) and 1959 Arctic Message (Laval University, Canada)

It would be 54 years before the cairn and protected message was rediscovered and any changes to the glaciated landscape recorded. The letter was discovered by a research team led by Warwick Vincent, a Laval University biologist, rediscovered it. In the intervening years, the Ward Hunt glacier had receded more than 325 feet. The original glaciologists had anticipated climate change long before the knowledge was known.

In 1959, who was wondering about climate change and what ice might tell us about the past and future. Two young explorers left a message in a bottle and a warning of what was to come.


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