A message in a bottle found 54 years after it was written showed warning signs of a changing climate.
The note was found by two researchers last summer, buried under rocks on a small, uninhabited island in the Canadian Arctic. It was written by a 25-year-old geologist, named Paul T. Walker, and dated July 10, 1959.
On this date, Walker had measured the distance from a glacier to the pile of rocks where the note was found as 4 feet, according to the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
Walker then asked anyone who found the letter on Ward Hunt island to “remeasure the distance and send the information” back to his address and to a colleague.
Walker died from a stroke within a year of writing the note, but his foresight was remarkable given that “he didn’t know at that stage whether the glacier was advancing or retreating,” Warwick F. Vincent, one of the biologists who found the note, told the Los Angeles Times. “But he wanted a reference point that would allow future researchers in the area to provide him with important data,” Vincent said.
Vincent and his his colleague, Denis Sarrazin, followed the letter’s instructions and found that the gap between the rocks and glacier had grown significantly. The distance was now more than 300 feet, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported.
The finding provides further evidence that the Arctic is warming, contributing to melting sea ice, glaciers, and snow.
A recent study showed that average summer temperatures in the Canadian Arctic over the last century are the highest in the last 44,000 years.
Vincent has also witnessed the disintegration of Ellesmere Island’s Ward Hunt ice shelf — one of the five remaining ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic. The ice shelf experienced major losses in 2008 in a span of just one month.
“With our camera, we captured the complete loss of this ice shelf,” Vincent told the Herald. “Suddenly our camera caught this open water, we think for the first time in thousands of years. The changes are extraordinary, particularly the last 10 years, and especially the last two years.”