close up of old camera lense

Explorer’s Camera from 1930s Found on Glacier in Yukon Territory

Whether to escape from people or discover new things, people want to be an explorer, to seek out adventure, and to search for roads untouched (unpolluted) by man. Back in the 1930’s an explorer by the name of Bradford Washburn and his friend Bob Bates were out on a pioneering adventure through Yukon. They left behind some equipment including a camera. Recently, the camera was uncovered and is, now, in the possession of Parks Canada.

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The Adventure that Would Change Lives

Explorer Bradford Washburn lived a life full of excitement. He went on countless excursions throughout his life and his works contributed to the development of many adventure routes, that are still used today. He is credited with being a Mountaineering Pioneer. In 1937, the explorer and his friend were on an adventure in Yukon, located in the westernmost part of Canada and is the smallest of Canada’s 3 territories. When Washburn and his buddy, Bates, were attempting to climb Mount Lucania in the Saint Elias Mountains.

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Heartbreaking Action to Ensure Safety

Due to dangerous weather conditions, a plane was unable to fly in and pick them up, so they had to make the trek back, by foot. This meant they would have to leave all their equipment behind. With a heavy heart explorer, Washburn left his cache behind. It was always his hope to go back one day and find his belongings. Alas, that would not be possible. However, professional skier Griffin Post was inspired by the well-known explorer and set out to find the missing equipment.

Read: Huge Ancient Forest World Discovered 630 Feet Down in a Sinkhole

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Mission Objective

Griffin Post, set out 85 years after the cache had been abandoned, and 15 years after Washburn’s death. He got in touch with Luke Copland. Copland is a glaciologist at the University of Ottawa. Because glaciers tend to move over time Washburn’s notes and the location was no longer accurate. The explorer left his equipment on Walsh Glacier. Post figured, being both Canadian and a glaciologist, Copland would have some insight as to where the glacier might be.

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Image Credit: Leslie Hittmeier | Teton Gravity Research

Mapping out a route

Copland, the supervisor of Dora Medrzycka, recruited her to help. She recently earned her Ph.D. in physical geography with a focus on Glaciology. Copland and Medrzycka worked together to provide an estimation of where the glacier had likely moved. Medrzycka joined Post and a crew from Teton Gravity Research and Parks Canada, on an adventure of a lifetime.

Teton Gravity Research is based in Wyoming and aims to minimize carbon footprints. Their mission is to showcase the world’s top athletes. TGR was thrilled to be part of the journey to recover famous explorer Bradford Washburn’s lost cache. Waiting for milder weather patterns, they set out to explore in late spring 2022.

Unfortunately, they didn’t find anything and would have to try again. Despite this, Post optimistically told ABC News, “But the information we got helped us kind of reassess the estimation of where the cache had moved to.

Read: Archaeologists In Pompeii Break Into a Secret Room, Then Freeze At The Sight Within

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Feeling Hopeless

On the other hand, Medrzycka feeling discouraged, told ABC News, “I was not only disappointed, but I pretty much knew that I was letting everybody down. Because technically, I was the one that was supposed to have the knowledge to figure out where it was. So, I definitely felt like I had failed everyone, and that responsibility was pretty, pretty hard to bear.” Medrzycka, ready to give up, looked out over the vast fields and noticed something useful to the team. She came across what looked like a break in the medial moraine.

This is a line of debris that occurs at the meeting point of 2 glaciers. After looking at a satellite image she was able to see clearly. The breaks had occurred in two places.

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Image Credit: Teton Gravity Research

What it Means

Since satellite imaging portrayed a useful bit of information, Medrzycka calculated how far the glacier had moved since 1937. The glaciologists knew the Walsh Glacier had surged twice since the 1930s. Because of this, Medrzycka theorized that the breaks in the moraine happened at the same time. From this she was able to map out the two breaking points and estimated how far the glaciers had traveled.

On the last day of their August excursion, with the help of Medrzycka’s last-minute speculation, they found the cache. At first glance, they were only able to see goggles and fuel canisters. They traveled further down the glacier. Incredibly, they recovered the camera from 1937, and the rest of Washburn’s left behind cache.

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Afterthoughts

Post commented on the findings, ” it was just such a special moment to share with the crew and be with those people in that landscape and come back successful after essentially stealing victory from the jaws of defeat,”. Medrzycka was feeling relieved to have been able to find a solution. She told ABC News, “When we did find it, man, that was priceless. I’ll never forget that moment.” She followed up with a statement to shed light on current environmental concerns stating, “whatever happens in the Arctic or in high mountain environments doesn’t just stay there. So whatever activities we have in the south, whatever emissions, the pollution that we’re creating, all that does have an impact on the glaciers even if they are very far from us.”

Because there’s not much data in regard to glacier movement before the 1960’s, these findings are huge for glaciology research. The explorer’s cache offers insight to predict possible glacier movement or changes in the future. Parks Canada has the camera and is working to preserve and retrieve Washburn’s discoveries. Because Washburn’s documentation is still used by climbers and skiers, his images from 1937could offer helpful insight on changes to the landscape.

Keep Reading: ‘Like Time Travel’: Explorer’s Ship Found Off Antarctica’s Coast 100 Years After South Pole Expedition

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Sources

  1. Bradford Washburn.” Alaska Sports Hall. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  2. Lateral and medial moraines (U.S. National Park Service)NPS. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  3. Teton Gravity. Retrieved October 27, 2022.

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