Hidden History Revealed By Receding Glaciers

Michael Gwyther-Jones, Flickr

Well at least global warming is good for something.

The rise in Earth’s temperature is making snow lines and glaciers recede on mountain ranges all over the world. While this is a worrying trend, it’s revealing hidden bits of history to archaeologists.

In Norway, the receding Lendbreen glacier at 6,560 feet above the sea level has revealed an ancient wool sweater dating to the Iron Age. Carbon dating has revealed that it’s 1,700 years old. It was made of sheep and lamb’s wool in a diamond twill, and was well-worn and patched from heavy use. The Norwegian research team estimates that the person who wore it would have been about 5 feet, 9 inches tall.

The results of the study have recently been published in the journal Antiquity.

This isn’t the first discovery thanks to receding glaciers. The most famous, of course, is the so-called “Iceman”, a well-preserved corpse of a man who died in the Alps around 3300 BC. Last year we reported the discovery of the bodies of soldiers from World War One in the Alps. in Norway, about 50 textile fragments have been recovered in recent years, although the sweater is the first complete garment.

Most discoveries have been accidental, with hikers and mountaineers reporting their finds to the appropriate authorities. In the Iceman’s case, people originally wondered if the well-preserved body might have been a recent murder victim!

So if you’re hiking near a melting glacier, keep an eye out for ancient artifacts and bodies, and remember that it’s illegal to pocket them. Do science a favor and call a park ranger.

Photo Of The Day: Exploring Glacier National Park

JasonBechtel, Flickr

It’s almost summer, and you know what that means? Road trip season. Sure, you can take a road trip any time of the year, but there’s something about warm air drafting through the windows as you drive down an unexplored road, twisting and winding towards a new and tempting destination.

JasonBechtel‘s photo, taken on the iconic Going to the Sun Road from the front of a Red Jammer, the buses used at Glacier National Park to cart tourists around, manages to get that same sensation into one single shot. Makes you want to go grab your car and head for the road right now, doesn’t it?

Do you have a photo that captures the spirit of travel? Submit it for a chance to be featured on Photo of the Day. Pop it in our Gadling Flickr pool for the chance to be featured.

Yosemite’s Largest Glacier Has Stopped Advancing

Yosemite's Lyell GlacierFor years we’ve heard environmental scientists and researchers tell us how climate change is having a profound effect on glaciers across the globe. In many parts of the planet, increased temperatures have caused the giant sheets of ice to dramatically recede or disappear altogether. That process has now begun to take place in one of America’s most iconic landscapes – Yosemite National Park.

Last week, the National Park Service announced that Lyell Glacier, the largest inside the park, has stopped advancing and is losing substantial mass. The NPS, working in conjunction with the University of Colorado, conducted a four-year study of the glacier, measuring its movement by placing stakes along the ice and recording their positions. Over that four-year period, those stakes didn’t move at all. The study also conducted research on the nearby Maclure Glacier, which runs adjacent to Lyell. The findings indicate that it is still advancing at a rate of about one inch per day, despite the fact that it has lost nearly 60% of its mass as well.

Glaciers build up over thousands of years due to the accumulation of ice and snow in mountainous areas. When they grow large enough their mass, combined with melt water, causes them to slide down hill at a generally very slow, but powerful, pace. When they stop moving altogether or start to retreat, it is because they no longer have the mass or moisture to push them downhill. This has increasingly been the case with some of the largest glaciers across the planet.

Research will continue over the next few years as scientists will record a host of climate data in and around both the Lyell and Maclure Glaciers. They’ll monitor the thickness of the snowpack, range in temperatures and rate of ice melt in an effort to further understand the effects of climate change on the two bodies of ice. It seems clear, however, that warming temperatures have already begun to have an effect.

[Photo Credit: Greg Stock]

Gigapixel Image Of Mt. Everest Conveys True Sense Of Scale

A gigapixel image of Mt. Everest shows the mountain in stunning detail.We all know that Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet, standing some 29,029 feet in height. But unless you’ve actually been there, it is difficult to get a true sense of the scale of the peak. But now, thanks to an impressive new image released by GlacierWorks, anyone can witness just how large the mountain is without ever leaving the safety and comfort of their home.

The photo, which you can view by clicking here, was shot this past spring by famous documentary filmmaker David Breashears. He was on another mountain known as Pumori, which sits just five miles to the west of Everest, when he snapped the photo using a special camera designed to capture extremely large images. Where as most photos are measured in megapixels, this one is actually more than a gigapixel in size, displaying an unprecedented level of detail and a sense of scale unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Don’t believe me? Click on the image yourself and look for the tiny yellow dots in the lower left corner. Those yellow dots are the tents in Everest Base Camp where the climbers make their home for about two months while they are climbing the mountain. A set of controls at the bottom of the screen allows you to zoom in or out of the image to see things close up, while also moving the camera around to take in all of the amazing details. If you look closely, you can even find some of the higher camps on the mountain and spot a trail of mountaineers making their way up the South Col. To truly take in the shot, I highly recommend you put the photo into full screen mode.

The image was taken as part of GlacierWork’s efforts to document the impact of global climate change on glaciers in the Himalaya. Everest’s Khumbu Glacier is one of the most famous in the world, and like many others across the region, it is in full retreat. Because these glaciers are a source of fresh water for the people that live in the Himalaya Range, their disappearance could cause massive problems in years to come.

[Photo Credit: Pavel Novak via WikiMedia]

Retreating Italian Glacier Reveals Dead From World War I

World War OneTwo soldiers’ bodies from World War I have been discovered on an Italian mountain, the Telegraph reports.

Workers on the Presena glacier in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of the Dolomites in Italy found the bodies at an altitude of 9,850 feet. The glacier has been receding because of an unusually hot summer and the workers were covering it with a giant tarpaulin to keep it from thawing further.

The soldiers are believed to have been from an artillery unit of the Austro-Hungarian army and were killed in 1918. The skeletons were identified by remnants of uniform and insignia. No word yet on whether they can be named.

During World War I, Italy fought against Austro-Hungarian and German forces in the bitter cold of the mountaintops. One favorite tactic was to fire artillery shells above enemy positions to cause avalanches to bury them. In other cases soldiers died from wounds or exposure and were lost. Many of these bodies have been found in later years.

From more on the Italian Front, there is an excellent website and photo collection here.

The Presena glacier isn’t the only one melting. The entire Alps is seeing less ice cover, reducing the number of ski slopes and increasing the risk of avalanches for trekkers.

[Photo courtesy German Federal Archive]