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Note from 1959 asks far north visitors to measure glacier distance

Dec. 17, 2013 at 5:35 PM   |   Comments

QUEBEC CITY, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Canadian researchers said a message in a bottle revealed a rock cairn located 333 feet from a glacier was only 3.9 feet away in 1959.

Warwick Vincent, who led a team of scientists studying at Laval University's remote research station in Ward Hunt Island, one of the most northerly pieces of Canadian land, said the team discovered a message in a bottle placed on a cairn of rocks that appeared to have been built by humans, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

"It was really quite extraordinary to be holding that piece of paper in my hands," Vincent was quoted as saying.

The note was written by U.S. geologist Paul T. Walker and dated July 10, 1959. It asked whoever discovered the message to measure the distance between a nearby cairn and a glacier, a distance of only 3.9 feet when the letter was written.

The distance between the cairn and glacier has since grown to 333 feet, the researchers said.

Walker died at the age of 27 only a few months after writing the note.

Ian Howat, an associate professor at Ohio State University, where Walker worked in the 1950s, said it took foresight to consider the movement of the glacier.

"You weren't going to get any proposals funded to study deglaciation in the 1950s, so if anything, most scientists would think their cairn and their message in a bottle would be overridden by the advance of the glacier, not a marker for retreat," Howat said.

Vincent said he and his team added another note to the bottle in the hopes of hearing from future visitors.

Ward Hunt Island's closest community is Grise Fiord, Nunavut, located 497 miles to the south.

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