Expedition finds cache of cameras on remote Yukon glacier, 85 years after mountaineer left them behind


After six days of looking the Walsh Glacier in Yukon’s Kluane National Park for a decades-old cache of cameras, Griffin Post’s expedition staff was able to pack it in.

Half his crew had already flown out. Bad climate was about to set in. Time was ticking and the crew appeared no nearer to discovering the misplaced gear legendary mountaineer Bradford Washburn had stashed on the glacier 85 years earlier than.

Then, on the final afternoon of the search, one of the staff’s scientists got here up with a brand new idea for the place the gear might be.

“We actually had an hour earlier than we had been going to go away, once we began to search out elements of their gear and remnants of their journey that was indisputably theirs,” Post mentioned of the expedition that occurred in August.

“It was so surreal. You’re variety of in disbelief, and you are like, ‘Oh my gosh — we had been proper! This exists!'”

Dora Medrzycka pinpointed the place the cache could have moved, primarily based on projected actions of the glacier. (Leslie Hittmeier)

The staff recovered a portion of Washburn’s cherished aerial F-8 digital camera — a format he would later change into identified for worldwide — in addition to two movement image cameras and outdated climbing gear, tents and cooking gadgets. (That included half of a T-bone steak, Post famous — “They had been consuming fairly nicely on the market, it appeared.”)

“It was simply the complete array of gear from what they had been utilizing within the Thirties,” mentioned Post, an expert skier and mountain explorer.

Dora Medrzycka, a postdoctoral fellow on the University of Ottawa and the scientist who thought up the brand new idea, mentioned the invention all got here all the way down to how far the glacier had moved since Washburn’s day.

Figuring that out was a significant problem for the staff, since Walsh Glacier does not transfer like regular glaciers do — relatively, it goes by cycles the place it has a gradual, common move, adopted by a decade of “surging,” she mentioned.

“Surging glaciers … have these quick intervals of intense exercise and this irregular behaviour that basically makes it onerous to reconstruct the motion of these glaciers over very long time scales,” she defined.

The expedition uncovered an aerial 58 digital camera in addition to two movement image cameras and outdated climbing gear, tents and cooking gadgets. (Submitted by Teton Gravity Expedition)

Standing on the ice, she seen lengthy bands of particles that gave her a clue for a way and when the glacier had surged.

“Based on that concept, I primarily extrapolated the glacier motion and got here up with a brand new estimate of the place the cache might be — and it turned out to be fairly spot on,” she mentioned.

“Personally, for Griffin, for the staff, for myself, it is fairly epic. We went on a treasure hunt, and we occurred to search out it.”

Some stray paragraphs and a dream

That treasure hunt was a very long time within the making.

Post had been fascinated by Washburn’s failed 1937 try to climb Mount Lucania — throughout which he deserted the gear — ever since studying about it in a ebook. It was a pair paragraphs from that ebook, which talked about no climbing celebration had ever reported seeing the gear, that “received the wheels turning,” he mentioned.

(*85*) needed to construct a case for the expedition, utilizing a 3D mapping program and pictures from Washburn’s journey to attempt to triangulate the place the gear would have been stashed.

Then he began emailing glaciologists.

Luke Copeland, a professor of glaciology on the University of Ottawa and Medrzycka’s instructor, took an curiosity, having studied that space prior to now.

“There’s a report of discovering fairly just a few outdated artifacts on glaciers in different areas,” Copeland defined. “I did not suppose it was solely out of the query — however, of course, discovering out the place it was 85 years later, that is a extremely robust problem.”

The staff used modern glacial mapping processes to determine the place the cache could have moved over eight a long time. (Submitted by Teton Gravity Expedition)

Luckily, they decided the gear would have been left on the decrease half of the glacier, as an alternative of on the prime the place it might have been coated by a long time of snow.

“We projected it might have moved maybe 10 kilometres down the glacier, however once they truly received to the sphere, it had actually moved a lot additional than that,” he mentioned.

The glacier is greater than 70 kilometres lengthy and some kilometres vast, Medrzycka famous — “a large panorama” to seek for such a small cache.

Post mentioned his coronary heart sank a bit when the staff arrived on the glacier. The enterprise appeared all of a sudden outlandish, a needle-in-the-haystack hunt.

“It’s humorous, stepping into, you have finished all this analysis, you’ve this map, you are like, ‘We’re going to search out it for certain,'” he mentioned.

“Then you fly into that valley and the Walsh Glacier for the primary time, and also you see simply how huge it’s, and the way vast, and what number of crevasses there are.”

Aside from the success of discovering the gear, Post mentioned the journey additionally gave the scientific neighborhood a major quantity of information on how the glacier has developed.

“They have all this info of how this glacier has behaved over the past 85 years — which is a fairly cool contribution to science,” he mentioned.

Washburn’s gear is now with a staff of conservators from Parks Canada, who’re working to protect the artifacts.


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