redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Researchers have discovered an over 50-year-old message in a bottle located on Ward Hunt Island in Canada that has led to a surprising discovery about climate change.
According to Francie Diep of Popular Science, the bottle was located some 500 miles away from the nearest human settlement, and was placed there by an American geologist known as Paul Walker.
The note was dated July 10, 1959, and it asked any scientist who found it to measure the distance between two rock “cairns” he built in order to determine whether the ice shelf was advancing or retreating, Warwick Vincent of Laval University in Quebec, the scientist who discovered the bottle, told Popular Science.
Vincent and his colleagues complied with the request, and found that the rock piles that were just four feet apart when the 25-year-old Walker set them up five decades ago were now 333 feet apart, Diep added.
Furthermore, Weather.com’s Becky Kellogg reported that in 1959, the distance from the edge of the glacier was 168 feet, while in 2013 it was 401 feet from the glacier, meaning that the Ward Hunt Island glacier has retreated 233 feet since 1959.
As for the note itself, it was signed both by Walker, a geologist who lived in Ohio, and a Boston-area colleague named Albert Crary. Both men are well known by modern geologists, according to International Business Times reporter Philip Ross, and Vincent said that he “recognized the two names instantly.”
Walker requested that the information be sent to his residence in the Buckeye State, but unfortunately he would never receive any responses as he suffered a stroke and died shortly thereafter. Crary went on to lead a mission to the South Pole in 1961, Ross said. A base located at McMurdo Bay, Antarctica, was renamed in his honor.
The story doesn’t end there, however, as USA Today reports that Vincent and his team returned the bottle to its original resting place, and added a second note asking future researchers to once again repeat the measurement.
Denis Sarrazin of C-NET/Arctic Net, who worked alongside Vincent on the project, told Kellogg that the discovery was “amazing.”
“In northern Canada, glacier retreat is happening at an alarming pace. We should put more effort into research to try to understand the mechanisms and fallouts,” he noted, adding that by returning the message they ensure that it will “still be there for other people to experience this.”