Melting ice in the Swiss Alps has uncovered human remains and the wreckage of a historic plane crash.
Rising temperatures due to climate change are causing glaciers to melt and retreat.
When glaciers melt, objects and remains buried under ice surfaces emerge.
Tensing glaciers in the Swiss Alps revealed two sets of human remains this summer, as well as the wreckage of a 1968 plane crash frozen under snow and ice. They are some of the latest objects to be discovered in a warming world.
French climbers found skeletal remains on August 3, on the Chessjen glacier in the southern canton of Valais, in Switzerland. Dario Andenmatten, caretaker of a mountain hut where many hikers start their ascent, told The Guardian he believed the person died “sometime in the 1970s or 80s”.
At the end of July, another body was found on the Stockji glacier, near a ski resort. Luc Lechanoine, one of the two hikers who discovered the body, told Swiss newspaper Blick that the remains were mummified and slightly damaged, and the person was wearing 80s-style clothing.
Police are still working to identify both sets of remains, according to The Guardian.
On August 4, debris from a plane crash was found on the Aletsch Glacier by a mountain guide, according to local authorities. Local police said in a statement that their investigation determined that the aircraft parts found on the glacier were from a Piper Cherokee plane that crashed on the glacier on June 30, 1968.
“At the time of the accident, more than 50 years ago, the technical means of recovering aircraft wreckage in difficult terrain were limited. Due to the melting of the glaciers, especially in summer, it is therefore possible that other parts or pieces of wreckage may be released from the ice, ” the police said in the statement, according to a Google translation.
A growing body of research suggests that as the world warms due to climate change, many of the Alps’ glaciers are melting and receding – as are other glaciers around the world.
This is not the first time retreating glaciers have uncovered objects and remains. For the past decade, the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command has worked to recover the remains of 52 service members who died when their military transport plane crashed into an Alaskan mountain in 1952.
“As the glacier melts and the glacier moves, more material comes to the surface,” Gregory Berg, the forensic anthropologist who led the team that examined the remains emerging from the retreating glaciers, told reporters at a 2013 news briefing.
Recently, in western Mongolia and Norway, melting ice has revealed fragile, previously frozen artifacts, including ancient tools, ropes, spears and arrows, according to William Taylor, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado Boulder. In The Conversation, Taylor writes that the melting ice gives researchers a narrow window of time to secure these objects before they are damaged or degraded by weather and exposure to the elements.
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