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.

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]

Adventurers Needed For Expedition Across Europe’s Largest Glacier

Europe's largest glacier the Vatnajokull in IcelandTravelers looking for a completely new and unique challenge will definitely want to take note of an expedition being organized by adventure travel company Secret Compass. Later this summer, the outfitter will send a small group of trekkers on one of the first commercial expeditions across Europe‘s largest glacier, the Vatnajokull ice cap located in Iceland.

The 12-day journey is scheduled to take place July 13-24 and will give travelers a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore glacial valleys, ice caverns and snow capped volcanoes across Vatnajokull’s massive expanse. They’ll also experience beautiful waterfalls, steaming hot springs, rushing rivers jammed with ice and the incomparable Northern Lights.

Participants in this adventure will certainly want to be in good physical condition, as the entire journey will be made on cross-country skis. They’ll also be pulling all of their gear and supplies behind them on sleds, just as polar explorers in the Arctic and Antarctic have done for decades. If that isn’t enough, the intended route will even take the group to the summit of Hvannadalshnukur, the tallest mountain in Iceland at 6923 feet.

This is an epic adventure that isn’t for the faint of heart. Secret Compass has put together an expedition to an extremely remote and wild place that few humans will ever have the opportunity to experience. For that reason alone this new offering is likely to appear on many bucket lists in the year ahead.

The cost for the trip is £2099 (about $3365) and only 12 lucky people will get to join the expedition. For more information click here.

Budget Hiking Alternatives To Tierra Del Fuego In Ushuaia, Argentina

ushuaiaWhen traveling to Ushuaia in Argentina‘s Patagonia region, the main attraction is trekking in Tierra del Fuego National Park. While absolutely stunning, a trip there can be expensive. Depending on what your travel plans are, you may want to try some cheaper hiking options in the area.

The first is Valle de Lobos. Transportation and admission to Tierra del Fuego from the city center costs 170 Argentine Pesos (about $40) round trip. While this may not sound expensive, just ask a backpacker who’s been touring the continent on a shoestring budget. The bus to Valle de Lobos costs less than $15 round trip, and the entrance fee is only 10 ARS$ (about $2). At this lesser known – but still breathtaking – park, you’ll be able to hike to Esmeralda Lagoon. The lagoon is majestic, as it gleams a metallic light-blue yet off-white color. Along the way, you’ll trek through the Bosque Forest, Rio River and over the Puente Bridge.

Another budget-friendly hike is to Martial Glacier. This trek is absolutely free, as you can walk to the trailhead from the city center in about 40 minutes. You will first go through a winding forest, crossing over streams and bridges. Then you will trek uphill to the base of the glacier. It’s a hike of beautiful contrasts, as you will be surrounded by vibrant foliage before climbing up snowy boulders.

For a more visual idea of these hikes check out the gallery below.

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