In 1937, legendary aerial photographer and cartographer Bradford Washburn ditched hundreds of pounds of photographic equipment, surveying equipment, and supplies when he encountered bad weather while exploring Canada’s frigid Yukon region.
In August, 85 years later, a team of professional mountain scientists and explorers discovered the long-lost historic tool deposit buried in ice on the remote Walsh Glacier.
Eight decades ago, Washburn and fellow explorer Robert Bates were attempting to climb Mount Lucania in the Sant’Elia Mountains when bad weather forced them to leave heavy photographic equipment behind.
In late April 2022, professional big-mountain skier Griffin Post embarked on a three-week expedition to the glacier – located within Canada’s Kluane National Park and Preserve – along with other adventurers and scientists, to hunt down the location. cameras.
“I was confident, but I knew it was like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack,” Post said in a news release. “A lot can happen in 85 years on a glacier.”
Dora Medrzycka, a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa, was contacted to go to the site and draw a map of the glacier, to determine where the equipment could have moved over time.
“Essentially they needed help figuring out how the glacier is moving and what is the best way to find the hiding place,” Medrzycka told Insider. A team of glaciologists from the University of Ottawa aided the remote expedition.
Upon arrival in the region, the team searched on foot, on skis and on snowboard. “We had an idea of where to start looking, but nothing very specific,” Medrzycka said, adding: “We walked many kilometers walking up and down the glacier. We had a hard time finding it, we couldn’t see it anywhere. “
To try to get an idea of the camp’s original location, the team examined photographs of the cache site that had survived the Washburn expedition.
The team didn’t find the cameras until a second, shorter glacier trip in August. “We were pretty much close to giving up because all our efforts were giving us nothing,” Medrzycka said.
On the penultimate day of the trip, Medrzycka came up with a new theory about where the artifacts might be. Glaciers typically move at a constant rate from year to year, but the Walsh Glacier is a rare “rising” glacier, she said, which means it moves faster for a year or two every few decades.
He noticed that piles of debris had traveled the entire length of the glacier, which he believed was caused by the wave. This gave her information on how and when the glacier had flowed in the past. Observing her allowed her to calculate a new estimate of where the objects might be, which was three or four miles downstream and about 14 miles away from where Washburn had dropped them.
His intuition eventually drove the team into the missing gear. “It was an amazing feeling and I was relieved that I didn’t fail to find the cache,” said Medrzycka, adding, “It was an epic moment for everyone.”
Weeks later, Parks Canada archaeologists returned to the glacier with the expedition team to extract the camera from the ice. The team found a significant portion of Washburn’s Fairchild F-8 aerial camera, with two film cameras still loaded inside, trekking poles, tents and other survival gear.
According to Medrzycka, the team knew that Washburn took landscape images before he ditched his equipment. They are now planning to develop the decades-old film, hoping to save the images.
“What’s really significant here is that this is new data that we had no way of having without finding that cache,” Medrzycka said, adding, “We have been able to trace the path that the cache has since 1937.”
He said the findings could help scientists better understand how glaciers move, adding that “if we now combine this information with satellite data, we can try to understand if and how the flow of this specific glacier, the Walsh Glacier, is. changed over the past eight decades “.
Correction: November 3, 2022 – An earlier version of this story incorrectly introduced Bradford Washburn’s first name as Brad.
Read the original article on Business Insider