If I say “global warming”, will you answer me? Exaaaactly, you answer me “we’re in deep shit” and you’re right! In addition to the big episodes of heat waves this summer, and the droughts which caused many things to reappear by surprise, global warming also induces the melting of snow (or even ice depending on altitude) in the mountains. Since we always see the glass half full here, we are still going to share with you the positive side on the historical level of this climatic catastrophe: the melting of the ice makes absolutely crazy things reappear. The proof !
1. The remains of a small plane, in the Alps
In early August 2022, a mountain guide discovered the carcass of a Piper Cherokee, a plane that had crashed on the Aletsch glacier in June 1968. The bodies of the three victims had already been found. The remains of the device had been buried by snow, and could be identified following a major melting this summer.
2. A landing gear carcass, still in the Alps
It is one of the parts of the Air India plane, which crashed in the Mont-Blanc massif on January 24, 1966, while connecting Bombay to London. Yes, exactly like the Malabar princess accident (same company, same destination, same departure city, and same French terrain for the crash) but 16 years later. Scary. I don’t know about you, but not super hot to travel with Air India.
3. 150,000 euros worth of precious stones, still in the Alps
Emeralds, sapphires and rubies were spat out by the Bossons glacier. In 2013, a mountaineer discovered this treasure in the Mont-Blanc massif. Hey guess what… These precious stones, straight from India, could well be remnants of the crash of the Air India plane in 1966!
4. Hundreds of Viking artifacts in Norway
Lars Holger Pilø is the archaeologist leading Oppland’s glacier program. According to him (for Geo), the discoveries on this site began in 2006, with the discovery of a shoe, 3,300 years old, on the Langfonne ice sheet. In short, since then, more than a thousand artefacts have been found on this glacier: arrows, shoes, clothing, horseshoes, harness ends, etc. Thanks to the ice, these objects have been perfectly preserved and could be dated. The vast majority date back to around 1,000 years ago, during the Viking Age.
5. On the same place, arrows from different eras
The Langfonne plaque keeps melting and shrinking. Its surface is equivalent today to less than 30% of what it was 20 years ago. Inevitably, this retraction reveals, each year, new objects. Besides the Viking artifacts, 68 different arrowheads were also found. The oldest of them would be around 6,000 years old (!!!!) and the most recent would be from the 16th century. Impressive, right?
6. A World War I bunker in the Italian Alps
It was on Mount Scorluzzo, in the heart of the Alps, that Italian historians Giovanni Cadiolo and Stefano Morosi discovered a bunker from the Great War. The latter, perched at an altitude of 2,900 meters and made of logs, contained the remains of these last occupants (preserves, kitchen utensils and socket). The building would have been used by about fifteen Austro-Hungarian soldiers, at a time when the Italian military forces opposed them (1915-1918).
7. Human remains (yes, it’s creepy)
Yeah, it’s not super fun, but the melting of the ice brings back dozens and dozens of bodies, missing for more or less a long time. For example, in early August 2022, mountaineers came across the bones of a person who died in the 1970s or 1980s on the Chessjen glacier. A week before, a body was found at the Stockji glacier (Valais Alps). Also found: the bodies of soldiers from the First World War, resulting from the confrontation between the Italians and the Austro-Hungarians in the Alps (mentioned above). And this is not true only in Europe! With the ice melting, the bodies of Alex Lowe, a climbing legend, and his companion David Bridges, were found in the Himalayas in 2016, that is: 16 years after their disappearance.
8. The body of a prehistoric man in the Ötztal Alps (Italy)
The Alps are definitely full of surprises! On September 19, 1991, hikers came face to face with a body on the Hauslabjoch glacier (Ötztal Alps), so well preserved that it seemed to have been dead for only a few days. In reality, it is the corpse of a man who died… More than 5,000 years ago! The prehistoric man, who scientists say died aged around 45, was renamed “Ötzi” in reference to the Ötztal. Alongside his remains, a jacket, cape, leggings, an ax and a dagger were found. Completely crazy, right? The Stéphane Bern that slumbers in me wriggles.
9. Unknown viruses, especially in China (no we are not talking about Covid)
Eh yes ! According to scientists, (very) old viruses have managed to survive nearly 15,000 years in the ice of the Tibetan plateau, in China. The samples taken and analyzed reveal that the latter are different from those we know today. How can viruses get into ice? Well, it’s simpler than it sounds: glaciers form gradually and enclose, with dust and gases, different viruses. Creepy, you said?