Scientist finds 1959 message in bottle showing the extent of glacial melt in remote Canada

CREATED Dec. 20, 2013

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A 54-year old message in a bottle tucked under some rocks is helping scientists study just how much a remote glacier has melted due to climate change.

Canadian biologist Warwick Vincent discovered the message while on a research trip to remote Ward Hunt Island, an Arctic spot where the average temperature is -18C, reports The Chronicle Herald.

Inside the bottle was a 1959 letter from American geologist Paul Walker, recording the measurements of the glacier and asking whoever found the note to re-measure the distance and send him the information.

Mr Vincent says he instantly recognized the name of Walker, a famed geologist who died in his 20s after a medical emergency at the remote location in the same year the letter was written.

He said Walker and his colleague Albert Crary showed amazing foresight to leave the letter as a “message to the future”.

“Because in the 50s it was unthinkable this would melt”, said Mr Vincent.

“This is the most remote part of North America, and the coldest coastal zone. This also makes the evidence of substantial glacial retreat of great interest,” he told Grind TV. The 1.2-meter gap between the cairn and glacier in 1959 has today widened to 101.5 meters as the glacier shrunk.

It is extremely rare to have glacial comparisons in such a remote location, and the information is valuable to scientists, Mr Vincent told The Chronicle Herald.

“The changes are extraordinary, particularly in the last 10 years, and especially in the last years.”

And it seems the message may also reach future scientists.

After taking a photo of the letter, Mr Vincent left the bottle and message behind - adding his own note asking the next person who stumbles across it to remeasure the glacier and get in touch.