Arctic explorers have discovered many things frozen in ice. However, a few of these discoveries stand out distinctly as truly exciting or bizarre. Often, prehistoric creatures are found, with traits perfectly developed for the glacial climate of the Ice Age. Though, every so often, something genuinely groundbreaking or freaky is uncovered.
Many strange and exciting oddities have been found by adventurous trailblazers and archeologists deep in our planet’s frozen poles. Some things appeared innocent until scientists verified them to be revolutionary unearthings or dangerous findings. Bundle up and get ready for these frozen phenomena.
Ice Blast from The Past
Every one of these crazy unearthing’s was found beneath layers of ice or perennially frozen subsoil, from petrified fossils to prehistoric animals and pathogens. This arctic permafrost and its findings can teach scientists about the changes to our planet’s climate and the drastic shifts that occurred to Earth’s environment throughout history.
There have even been reports of the extraction of microorganisms from inside frozen fossils and other petrified remains. These uncovered specimens have helped scientists further understand the Earth’s atmospheric conditions over centuries and have even helped recover and awaken extinct flora to life.
Eurasian Cave Lions
The frozen bodies of four Eurasian Cave Lion cubs were found in Siberia between 2015 and 2018. The lions are thought to have died between 25,000 and 55,000 years ago at only about two months old. This species of the lion is supposedly among the largest lion types to have existed on Earth.
In the past, only the bones of these Cave Lions had been discovered. However, this time they were fully intact. The lion’s bodies were incredibly well preserved; having been frozen, they maintained their fur and still had blood in their veins and fresh meat on their bones.
The Conditions for Ancient Flora
Most prehistoric flora has become extinct or evolved into the plants we live with today. However, scientists have confirmed that these extinct plants were strong and resilient. Hundreds of millions of years ago, plants had to survive with climate shifts from hot to cold every month, and the landmass was humid and covered in plants.
It is unclear how exactly these plants survived such drastic season changes and conditions, but scientists continue to learn the secrets. In modern times, plants deal with more gradual season changes, but the climate was different back then.
A Forgotten Army Base
In Greenland, there is an abandoned old military base called Camp Century. The base is buried twenty feet under the ground. The Camp was built in the 1960s as a nuclear testing facility for the U.S. Army and contained barracks to house the troops that participated in the tests. In 1967 it was abandoned.
The underground Camp is made up of a series of interconnected tunnels. It is rumored that the complex was abandoned due to it having been built illegally, without permission from Denmark’s government. There is even a movie theatre, a hospital, and a store at Camp Century.
An Illegally Placed Nuclear Generator
At Camp Century, the U.S. Army built the first mobile nuclear reactor. It was such a large-scale project that the Camp was nicknamed the city under ice. The Army called this whole secret operation “Project Ice Worm.” Their end goal of installing nuclear missiles in the ice sheet failed.
After they abandoned the project, the nuclear reactor was removed. However, the rest of the complex remains buried under the ice in Greenland. Scientists hadn’t known global warming would begin and melt the waste they left behind. The hazardous waste left by the project has become a matter of environmental unrest.
Decaying Seal Remains
Explorers in Alaska accidentally discovered the bodies of tens of seals. These seals were defrosting and had begun to decay because of the climate change occurring in the area. Along with the melting ice, other things are melting too. The scientists who found the seals said that the place smelled like rotting fish.
The seal’s organs were seeping from their bodies, and the smell wafted out over half a mile away from them. The craziest part was that the seal’s bodies were around seventy years old and had been frozen until recently. The disgusting site has since been cleaned.
Ancient Bacteria and Diseases
In the 1990s, a deadly virus was dug up in the permafrost of Russia. Excavators found frozen bodies that were covered entirely in smallpox markings. The bodies had been buried there in the last outbreak of the disease in the 1890s, and instead of decomposing, they had frozen, possibly preserving the infectious disease active.
Aside from deadly viruses, bacteria can also survive in ice-cold temperatures. Bacteria’s dating about ten million years old have been uncovered. Researchers are anxious about the ever-melting ice and scared that more deadly viruses and bacteria will defrost and threaten human life.
A Zombie Disease
Ice acts as a defense or a seal against deadly pathogens. However, in the ice, these bacteria and viruses can survive for millions of years. If the ice melts, an outbreak of ancient diseases can be unleashed on the nearby inhabitants. These frozen threats are called “zombie diseases” because they sleep for years only to defrost and kill.
Before the twentieth century, corpses of those who died in epidemics were buried together in largescale forest graves. Nowadays, the effects of climate change and melting ice are exposing these infectious corpses and can potentially reinvite zombie pathogens into the population.
The Siberian Anthrax Outbreak
If we are already on the subject of diseases with the potential to kill whole populations, an Anthrax outbreak in a small Siberian village caused a serious scare. Luckily only one person died; despite many becoming infected, only one person was killed. Sadly, around two thousand reindeer in the area were also infected.
Scientists believe that the outbreak was caused by melting permafrost that contained the bacteria. Anthrax had stayed on the frozen cadavers of reindeer who were decades old, but the melting ice seeped into the village’s groundwater through the soil and into the air through spores.
The Atmosphere in Ancient Times
Due to the petrified conditions of these frozen findings, natural phenomena can be preserved for millions and millions of years. While researching these ice-covered discoveries in labs, scientists have learned so much about the Earth’s environmental history and prehistory. The fascinating secret that has helped their research is preserved gasses.
During deep oil drilling in cold areas, diggers came upon air pockets filled with various types of gas, including krypton. When testing this newly discovered air, they found that they could determine the atmospheric state of the age during which the ice was formed, dating over twenty thousand years ago.
Buried Seeds Turn to Buds
An Ice Age squirrel accidentally gifted science with a significant discovery just by burying his stash of food. The squirrel hid some seeds and flower buds, and scientists uncovered them. These geniuses decided to attempt to revive these ancient plants and bring them back to life.
After much research, experts recreated the exact living conditions that the seeds needed to grow. In their lab, they revived a type of plant that was extinct for tens of thousands of years. The plant is fertile and produces flowers and usable seeds that have been used to grow more of the plant.
The Accidental Discovery of a Selerikan Pony
Many animals have been discovered by explorers and researchers searching for prehistoric knowledge. However, this Selerikan Pony was found entirely by accident. While gold mining in the Sakha region of Russia in 1968, miners discovered a tail, and the back legs of a horse, sticking through their tunnels wall.
They were able to dig out most of the pony’s mummified body, but not it’s head. Scientists determined the horse to be the Selerikan Pony, an ancient eastern European horse native to Yakutia that lived around 35,000 years ago. The horse supposedly died a quick death in a bog.
Grasshoppers in a Glacier
Tens of millions of grasshoppers were found inside Montana’s glaciers. Three whole glaciers in the state are completely full of frozen grasshopper swarms and have been named after the bugs. Two of the glaciers are nicknamed Grasshopper Glacier, and the third is called Hopper Glacier.
Some swarms of these bugs are reported to be several million years old, while other frozen groups of these hoppers are slightly younger, and some are just a few thousand years old. Wyoming also has a few grasshopper-filled glaciers, so it must be common for these insects to get trapped in ice.
Trapped on a Frozen Ship
Being stranded on a ship at sea is a terrible fate but being stranded on a frozen ship on Lake Michigan in the winter sounds like a harsher fate. The poor crew of this ship was trapped on their craft in the frozen waters of the lake.
A drone flying by photographed the ship alerting authorities to its existence. However, this is a common occurrence; every year, around twenty to thirty ships and even more smaller boats go missing. Some are discovered to have sunk, while others just disappear and are never found or heard from again.
More Melting Frozen Forests
Explorers found thousands of trees in the Mendenhall Glacier region in the state of Alaska. The forest is reported to be between one thousand five hundred to three thousand years old. The forest has thawed over the last half-century from beneath the Mendenhall Glacier and is now exposed to the world.
More and more trees have been uncovered over the past fifty years, some of which are still upright and have roots and bark, allowing scientists to research various parts of them. The trees seem to be either hemlock or spruce, which still grow in Alaska presently.
A Primeval Fashion Statement
The melting glaciers of Scandinavia have produced some very fascinating polar discoveries. In Norway alone, subglacial tools and weapons were defrosted; among them, explorers found Neolithic bow and arrows, horseshoes, and much more. An ancient-style remnant was also uncovered.
A tunic was found in the melting glacier and defrosted; it is approximated to be from the Iron Age, around 250-350 A.D. The woolen tunic was covered in layers of horse dung and crumpled up and then frozen and buried. Nevertheless, the piece of clothing helped historians understand the details of textile production differing throughout regions during the Iron Age.
A Frozen Flash Flood
Nature is a mysterious and terrifying force and surprises humans and animals with natural disasters like flash floods. If these lightning-quick floods weren’t scary enough as is, imagine one beginning and freezing mid flash. It seems almost impossible. However, it happened.
Thank goodness no one was caught up in this flood, for it froze on its way downhill, covering tree trunks, feet above the ground. For water to freeze mid-stream, temperatures must be pretty severe, though there are quite a few waterfalls that freeze during the coldest days of winter.
Climate Change, Not Global Warming
Many prominent scientists believed global warming to be a real threat, however more recently, due to the expansion of sea ice in Antarctica, the problem has been renamed climate change. These changes are still rapidly affecting Earth’s environment, though the problem is not only glaciers melting in the north pole but new ice growing in the south pole.
Deniers of Global Warming used the growing ice in the south pole to debunk environmental scientists’ warnings. However, whether the Earth is warming or chilling, the thawing ice in the Northern part of our planet is causing the sea level to rise.
Polynyas Popping Up
Polynyas are giant holes in the ice created by ocean currents that push hot water up to the surface. These warm currents cause the ice to melt, and some are so large that small countries could fit in them. These ice holes grow once they pop up and usually stay open.
Polynyas are usually oval or circular but not necessarily. The Maud Rise Polynya grew within a month in 2017 from 9,500 kilometers in diameter to 80,000 kilometers. Polynyas are good for allowing nutrients and phytoplankton to grow; these life-forms use carbon dioxide they take from the atmosphere for photosynthesis.
Plants of “The Little Ice Age”
Around the year 1500, the Earth experienced a “Little Ice Age.” The freeze covered the Ellesmere Island region in Canada in permafrost that killed most of the area’s plant life. However, the mosses of the region were resilient enough to survive, and when the ice began to thaw, the moss came back to life.
Due to melting glaciers in the area, recently, more florae have been discovered and taken to labs. Experts believe the plants date back 400 to 600 years and were entombed by ice and thus maintained enough viable cells to be candidates for possible in vitro regrowth.
A Frozen Friend
Losing loved ones is incredibly hard, and losing them literally is even more tragic and traumatizing. Rodney Hogg went through this when his friend Peter went missing. The worst part is that Hogg discovered the frozen body of Peter seven months after he had disappeared.
The two had been climbing Mount Everest in the Himalayas together when Peter went missing. Hogg stumbled upon Peter’s preserved corpse, covered in ice along the mountains trail. Scaling the world’s highest mountain was never considered easy. Peter is among many climbers who go missing or die while attempting to climb Everest’s icy peak.
Failed Everest Climbers’ Remains
Peter, Rodney Hogg’s climbing mate, was just one of the many people that has gone missing, fallen to their death, or died of altitude sickness each year while climbing Mount Everest. It is pretty interesting that people pay around twenty-five thousand dollars to scale the mountain, considering how high the death rate is.
Survivors of the climb admitted that stumbling upon human bones or corpses is pretty standard. A trail guide even found three bodies on one trip up the mountain. One of the bodies was discovered due to a pair of green climbing boots that protruded from the snow.
A Mistaken Discovery
An Arctic expedition from 1910 till 1914 came across what they believed to be a pyramid, like those in Egypt buried under the ice in Antarctica. The explorers only revealed their shocking find decades after the journey, which led to conspiracy theories and speculation about alien life.
However, after more research, what they thought was a pyramid turned out to be a mountain range. The peak they found is a nunatak and is just the point of a mountain or rock that pokes out an ice sheet. So, it was just a very symmetrical mountain top, after all.
Poor Baby Lyuba
A woolly baby mammoth reported to be over 40,000 years old was uncovered near the Yuribei River of Russia in 2007. It was an innocent reindeer herder that came across the animal completely by accident. The small mammoth was preserved in pristine condition in the ice.
Scientists were able to do an autopsy on the mammoth that they name Lyuba. They discovered that she was killed by suffocating on mud from a river rather than freezing to death. She is the second-best preserved baby mammoth to be discovered in history; the best was found in 2010.
Climate Change Craters
Called the Batagaika Crater, this half subglacial crater is so gigantic it has gained the nickname “doorway to the underworld.” The Siberian Crater is growing rapidly and causing alarm due to the amount of ice thawing in the surrounding glacier. The growth of the crater given science information about life before the Ice Age.
As the glacier melts, the crater’s surface deepens and sinks, revealing trees and other kinds of plants. Ice Age fossils have been uncovered around the crater’s edge. The most prominent permafrost crater on Earth, it measures 328 feet deep and counting.
Thawing Permafrost Uncovered Pithovirus
In 2014 out of the thawing ice of Siberia, Pithovirus was uncovered. The specimen is considered to be around 30,000 years old. Pithovirus is a virus that latches on to its recipients and causes them to burst open. Don’t worry; Pithovirus only is known to affect amoebas, not humans.
However, the discovery of this virus stands as a reminder to scientists that there may be ancient viral variants buried in the melting permafrost that might thaw and infect contemporary populations. However, some scientists believe that modern humans might be immune to ancient pathogens, having descended from humans with antibodies.
Stone Age Bacteria
Scientists continue inspecting bacteria found in permafrost and have proved that some of their recent specimens are from the Stone Age. At more than 700,000 years old, some of these cells have helped add to the findings regarding the climate during paleolithic times.
So far, aside from Anthrax outbreaks in Siberia, no deadly viruses from the past have emerged yet to wreak havoc on the contemporary population. However, in scientific labs, researchers have been able to revive bacteria, which means that these diseases can be brought back to life in the right environment.
A Long-Lost Message
A teenager in Alaska found a bottle, with a message inside of it, frozen in the ice near his house. Thinking that it looked pretty old, he posted pictures on social media of the message that had been in the bottle. He presumed that the note was in Russian and asked his followers to translate it if they could.
He was right; the message dated back to the Cold War. It was written by a Russian sailor, who asked that whoever found the bottle, please get in touch with them and let them know where it had reached.
A Risky Situation
Ice Volcanoes exist, and they are potentially dangerous. One may first think they are just weird-looking formations under the ice but beware. Their odd looks are due to the many frozen methane gas bubbles that have caused discoloration. It is recommended to stay clear of these volcanoes.
If an ice volcano erupts, it can be very uncomfortable and cause water and slush to fly out of the mound. Scientifically called cryomagma, cryolava, related ice volcanoes exist extra-terrestrially on Pluto and Jupiter and Saturn’s icy moons and emit ammonia and methane.
Growing Ancient Plants
The regrowth of the seed left behind, buried and burrowed by a squirrel of the Ice Age, generated a plant that’s seed was around 30,000 years old. The plant is called the Silene Stenophylla, and its seeds were found near the Kolyma River in Siberia.
The plant has born white flowers and even fruit! Reviving life forms like flora and fauna is complex and has been a largely unsuccessful venture; unlike bacteria that stay alive, these extinct species must be brought back to life. The success with the Silene flower has helped pinpoint genetic changes that occurred causing plant evolution.
The Endless Possibilities
Once researchers succeeded in reviving extinct plants, the possibilities seemed endless. It is well-known that many scientists believe that seeds are the key to saving humanity in the case of mass extinction. Therefore, The Norwegian Initiative was formed and is funding by many of the world’s wealthiest people, like Bill Gates.
The Initiative consists of a giant bunker that holds over a million kinds of seeds that can be regrown if ever deemed extinct. The bunker is stationed between Norway and the North Pole, far away from civilization and warm climates that could endanger its existence.
A Frozen Fish Eating a Frozen Fish
Two brothers on an ice fishing trip in Indiana found two fish frozen in an awkward situation. One fish, a pike, was eating the other, as bass. It must have suddenly gotten frigid because, with only half of the bass in its mouth, the pike and its prey froze together near the lake’s surface.
No one believed that the image the brothers uploaded to social media was genuine, so they went back and got the frozen fish eating a fish on video and filmed themselves removing the fish from the lake by cutting through the ice.
A Paleolithic Grave
A glacier that began to melt in Southern Chile revealed a fascinating graveyard of ichthyosaurs or fish lizard skeletons in its wake. These marine reptiles lived on Earth around ninety million to two-hundred and fifty million years ago. They are animals from the Mesozoic era when dinosaurs were alive.
These fish lizards were lightning-quick swimmers and killed their food by biting into them with sharp teeth. Dozens of the creatures were found underneath the thawing ice, and each measured about ten to sixteen feet in length. They resembled giant crocodiles but could live underwater.
Twenty Million-Year-Old Lake Vostok
In 1959 Russian scientists discovered evidence of a 5,000 square foot subglacial lake deep within the Antarctic tundra. The largest subglacial lake in Antarctica was named Lake Vostok after the nearby research station. The lake’s region boasts the coldest temperature recorded in modern times, minus 128 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lake Vostok formed twenty to thirty million years ago and is supposedly connected to other lakes by subglacial rivers. Vostok is the sixteenth largest lake by surface measurements globally and the sixth-largest by volume measurements. The existence of the lake was confirmed in 1993.
Rumored Signs of Alien Life
Despite these rumors, scientists continue to explore Lake Vostok, hoping to find more life-forms. Due to the extreme conditions of the Lake, it has existed under a shell of ice for millions of years, making it the closest thing to a faraway frozen moon like Europa of Saturn.
Scientists believe that if they can understand the ecosystem below the ice of Vostok, they will come closer to making an educated guess as to what type of life-forms might exist on other planets and moons. The reason for this is that Vostok mirrors extraterrestrial conditions.
Two Miles Deep in Ice
In Antarctica, there is a subglacial mountain range spanning about 10,000 feet. However, these mountains are underneath the ice and impossible to research. The ice layers on top of the range in estimated to be two miles deep. Reported to be as big as the European Alps, they have been deemed The Gamburstev Mountains.
The mountain range has peaks that measure up to 3,000 miles above sea level. However, the exact size and shape of the mountains are yet unknown. The mountains are speculated to have formed in the early to mid-Mesozoic era due to plate collisions.
To The Frozen Lighthouse
Apparently, entire buildings becoming trapped in ice is a common occurrence in the state of Michigan. When temperatures reach freezing temperatures, icicles form around waterfront buildings like this lighthouse. The icicles can get so vast that they cover the entire structure, entrapping it in ice.
Every year the five lighthouses of the great lakes freeze over during the coldest part of the winter. The size of the great lakes primarily impacts the weather in surrounding areas and creates freezing, windy conditions. These lighthouses look like something out of Game of Thrones, in the North, beyond the wall.
Cold Blooded Crocodiles
Many fish species survive under the frozen water of deep winter, but other animals were thought to die when trapped in the ice. However, scientists have discovered that some animals can survive in frozen water. Certain alligator species can live frozen in ice all winter.
Apparently, these cold-blooded alligators freeze themselves over but leave their snouts sticking out above the ice to breathe and somehow stay alive till the ice melts. This practice is called icing and is a survival technique; the alligators also slow their heart rate and metabolism in order to survive.
Four Times Faster Than Before
The rising temperatures of the planet have contributed significantly to the groundbreaking discoveries of the last fifty years. However, we all know that these melting glaciers pose real dangers for humanity, whether because of bacteria, rising sea levels, or general global warming.
As glaciers melt at four times the rate they were thawing before the 1970s, at least we are fortunate enough to live in a time that we get to learn so much about prehistoric life. Lucky for us, the planet will probably outlive everyone alive today, although the same might not be true for our offspring.
The Otzi Man of The Alps
Found in 1991 in the Austrian Alps, the Ötzi Man is among the best-preserved human corpses from before the common era. The two German hikers who found the body had no clue they had made a historic discovery. The Ötzi man was in such good condition that scientists found out that his last meal was goat meat bacon.
The five-foot-three-inch man was also very ill though he died from a head wound and is thought to have been murdered. He had gallstones, and a parasite in his intestines called whipworms. I’m going to pass on the wild goat bacon, thanks.
Ice Patch Archeology
In 1997, a group of Canadian hunters encountered a vast area full of caribou poop; they were happy because they were hunting caribou. What they didn’t know was that instead of caribou, they were about to find the shaft of a dart that was about four thousand years old.
A new type of archaeology dubbed “ice patch archaeology” has been developed over the last few decades. Archaeologists wait for large patches of ice to thaw and proceed to explore their surroundings. Subglacial, thawed animal dung helps researchers discover what animals used to eat and how the environment used to be.
Ridiculous Religious Rituals
Past civilizations had a different outlook on how the world works; many communities attempting to serve their gods, like the ancient Incan Empire, took to human and animal sacrifice. The Incas had a rite called “Qhapag Hucha,” in which the High priest of the tribe would take pure, young children to the highest mountain tops.
There, in an attempt to appease their gods, the priest would suffocate them, clobber them over the head or abandon them to freeze to death. In 1999, three frozen, mummified bodies of these sacrificed children were uncovered in the Andes Mountains.
Prehistoric Pups in Permafrost
In the freezing snows of Siberia, a few small dogs were found frozen in the ice. With their snouts poking out in an attempt to breathe. The poor pups had stomachs full of grass, meaning they had lost their mother and were almost starved to death before reaching their icy end.
Actually, on the prowl for mammoth tusks, the hunters who uncovered the canines were shocked. The dogs were reported to be approximately 12,500 years old and still had their skin and digestive organs intact. Similar to modern dogs, they still had a few more wolf-like features.
Frozen Killer Kingfishers
The beautiful Kingfisher birds are prone to freezing to death, far more than any other bird. The reason for this is that the Kingfisher will dive headfirst into freezing waters to fish more food. While brave, this practice is often the death of these birds. These particular Kingfishers were trapped in ice in Bavaria.
While ice-skating over frozen canals in France, one can spot Kingfishers diving to fish in the icy waters or frozen mid-action. Usually, they are able to escape; however, if they cannot find a hole to get out of the water, they die.
Rising Sea Levels
With glaciers losing more than 360 billion tons of ice every year that passes, sea levels are on the rise. The past rising water level of the seas is risky, and many more environmental shifts might happen as a result. The only silver lining is how accessible these areas are becoming for archaeologists.
Lately, new discoveries are frequently thawing, and every one of them teaches scientists and scholars more about the past, whether about how ancient civilizations lived or about evolution, plant life, or the atmosphere on Earth in paleolithic times. Ice patch archaeology is an ever-growing field of study.
Ice Block Fox
For animals who live in the tundra or cold mountainous regions, freezing to death is a daily risk. With their natural instincts and survival skills, they usually escape such a nasty fate, and if they do freeze, it isn’t always in a block of perfect ice like this fox discovered in Germany.
The hunter who found the frozen fox has also come across a few more frozen animals, including a deer. However, the oddest part of the story is that the hunter now displays his ice block with the trapped fox inside at the front of a local hotel.
The Wonders of the Yukon
In the Yukon territories of Canada, many unique artifacts have been uncovered. On Mount Thandlät in 1997, an especially fruitful ice patch was found, and scientists swarmed to it. Archaeologists, cryologists, and other researchers have been studying it and ice patches in the area since its discovery and keep finding more relics.
As opposed to glaciers, ice patches are unmoving, so it is much easier to search through them. The majority of remnants uncovered in these ice patches are 9,000 years old or older. Since the detection of the Yukon ice patches, over three hundred artifacts have been dug up.
Something Out of Harry Potter
Found frozen in the most remote part of Antarctica, a colossal squid was defrosted and dissected by scientists in 2014. This giant squid weighed over 700 pounds and was the size of a small bus, like the one at Hogwarts. Sporting eight arms, two tentacles, and eyes the size of basketballs, this squid is pretty frightening.
Researchers have assessed that creatures of this magnitude explain why ancient civilizations feared sea monsters like the mythological Kraken. If anyone were to encounter this giant squid, they would unquestionably believe that they had escaped a sea monster of legendary proportions.
Pieces of Dinosaur
Explorers have yet to find a complete dinosaur that has been preserved in an icy grave. However, it has been the dream of many adventurers to be the first to find such a corpse. However, a few specimens of partial body parts of these majestic Jurassic creatures have been uncovered.
In 2011, a miner came across a mummified piece of Nodosaur. The herbivore met its end when swept out to sea, where it drowned and froze. The 2,500-pound dinosaur back is the best-fossilized specimen found so far and will aid scientists in better understanding the extinct species.
A Willow Bark Bow
One would expect that with the new opportunities provided by melting glaciers, archeologists would be swarming to the North Pole, searching for treasures. But alas, the Northern terrain is no picnic and is primarily rugged and mountainous and, despite global warming, extremely cold. Expeditions are expensive and dangerous and, therefore, rare.
However, an archeologist named Tom Andrews decided that his life’s work would be exploring ice patches. The brave trailblazer raised funds, and in the year 2000, traveled to the Yukon to dig. Tom found a willow bark bow that is over three-hundred-year-old and many more relics.
The Poo of the Caribou
Caribou excrement, AKA reindeer poop, is a big part of ice-patch archaeology. It might sound disgusting, but these frozen feces are highly educational for researchers and can tell them a lot about the past. For instance, by dissecting the poop, they find out exactly what the animals ate and how and where they lived.
Furthermore, thanks to a recent scientific breakthrough, feces can now be tested to tell researchers if the animal had a stressful life or not, depending on hormone levels found in the excretions. Likewise, two ancient viruses were discovered in caribou dung in 2014.
Archaeological Artifacts in Ice
In the 1990s, when Ice Patch Archeology was first implemented, an initiative called the Yukon Ice Patch Project was started. The archeologists who began the project partnered with the six Yukon First Nations, native to the territory so rich in melting ice patches. Together these scientists and indigenous peoples have uncovered many artifacts.
These expeditions last months, during which archeologists, researchers, and specialists travel far into the wintery territories and camp there, isolated from society. These patches aren’t only melting in the Yukon; there are some in Alaska, Norway, British Columbia, and more.
A Small Spear
Spears were first made by Neanderthals and homo-sapiens around 300,000 to 400,000 years ago. The first known spears were made of wood and were invented by these ancient peoples to hunt better and fight better. Later on, humans added stone to their spear’s heads, but metal spears were not developed until far later.
In 2007 a spear-like dart was found in the thawing ice of Yellowstone Park. The artifact is reportedly more than 10,000 years old and made of birch wood. Apparently, it was a spear-thrower or an atlatl, which was a standard prehistoric hunting weapon.
The Baby Lynx
First thought to be another cave lion, this kitten was discovered in 2017 in Eastern Siberia. Scientists have begun to suspect that the newly discovered babe is actually another big cat altogether, a Eurasian lynx and is over 12,000 years old.
Only one other ancient lynx fossil has been discovered in Beringia. This baby lynx is thought to have died at approximately six months old and was frozen with its head resting on its petite paws. Scientists have commented on the beautiful fur of the young animal and are excited that its whiskers are still intact.
The Mysteries of Ice Mummification
It is tough to wrap our heads around how ice can preserve bodies for tens of thousands of years. However, it is in the very same way that our freezers keep our food fresh for months; the ice slows bacteria and other pathogens from eating away at these bodies and essentially halts their decay.
The bodies then become frozen solid, so the bacteria on them can’t move even the slightest, allowing them to remain intact for thousands of years. However, if they begin to thaw, they’ll start to decay unless they’ve fossilized or petrified, essentially permanently solidifying.
Donkeys Frozen to Death
In winter 2013, the weather in Turkey was so cold that donkeys froze solid in their pens. Villagers found a group of five donkeys huddled together to keep warm and rescued them from imminent death. The lucky animals were still alive when they were found and quickly brought inside and thawed.
Whoever owns the poor animals should have brought them inside before such a terrible blizzard. The Siverek townsfolk who found them brushed the hardened ice off of the donkeys and made sure to warm them up and feed them so that they wouldn’t die of hypothermia or frostbite.
Red Ice and Blood Falls
Antarctica is revered as the continent with the most mind-blowing natural phenomena. For instance, in East Antarctica lays a frozen waterfall dubbed Blood Falls due to the red blood color of the icy water. The explanation for this crazy wonder is attributed to the tremendous amount of iron found in the frozen water.
The subglacial water source from which the falls’ water supply comes is so rich in iron that it turned red. The Australian geologist Griffith Taylor discovered the falls in 1911, and the entire area surrounding them is named Taylor Valley after the impressive explorer.
A Canadian Copper Arrow
Archeologists were shocked to find a copper-headed arrow while searching for artifacts on a mountain top in the Yukon in 2016. The expedition hadn’t even planned on searching that ice patch; however, they landed there so as not to disturb a group of caribou who were wandering around their intended destination.
Upon inspection, the arrowhead appeared to be ninety-nine percent copper and was connected to the shaft with wire. The rod was no less impressive and made of barbed reindeer antler. The weapon is over 850 years old and has been connected to the Yukon’s indigenous tribes.
Glacial and Sub-Glacial
It is impossible to find anything underneath glaciers unless they shift drastically or melt completely. However, ice patches are far easier to study and excavate, for they are static. More and more glacial and subglacial permafrost ice patches pop up as the Earth’s ice continues to melt.
The archaeologist Dr. Craig Lee studied ice patches in Colorado, Montana, Alaska, Wyoming, and the Yukon. The rapidly thawing ice has allowed over 1,700 natural remnants to be found and over 200 historical artifacts. In Mongolia, too, innumerable relics were found in the melting ice between 2006 and today.
Rare Wooden Weapons
In 2007, Dr. Craig Lee found some fascinating carved wood specimens. Upon testing them in his lab, the archeologist found that they were artifacts made of birch saplings. The findings were reportedly over 10,000 years old. The tools themselves are most likely wooden parts used to hold ancient tents together.
However, birch was used for many things, from arrow shafts to tools and accessories; ancient civilizations had many needs for this wood. Many shafts have been uncovered in both North America and Canada, especially in the area of Yellowstone, some made of birch, but others of willow, fir, and pine.
Frozen Flight Fatality
Unfortunately, planes crash on a semi-regular basis and sometimes can’t be found, disappearing for decades. The poor soldiers of the crashed C-124 military flight went missing in 1952. Many years later, the airplane was found in the mountains of Alaska. It was, of course, frozen but, due to the crash, not so well preserved.
Altogether, fifty-two people died in the crash, among them eleven crew members and forty-one passengers. In 2012 the rest of the plane’s remains were discovered on a glacier, and from 2014 to 2019, the bodies of forty passengers were recovered nearby.
The Blood of Children
The ancient Incas worshipped many gods. However, Inti, god of the sun, was one of the more demanding deities. Responsible for the growth of their crops, the harsh god supposedly demanded that children’s blood be sacrificed for him. One such girl was found frozen in 1995.
On Mount Ampato, in Peru, an anthropologist came across the mummified body of a young teenage girl. She is said to have died around 1450 more or less, and because of the ice, her internal organs, hair, and skin were preserved. Three more mummified children were found in the next few years nearby.
The Ice Age Squirrel
In the movie Ice Age, the squirrel really sets the mood and gets the film off to a great start. The inspirations for the character were found back in 1946 in the Kolyma River of Siberia. Unnamed prisoners of Gulag actually discovered the ancient squirrels.
They recovered a nest that held three mummified arctic ground squirrels that were around 30,000 years old. The discovery was more than just the bodies of the squirrels, but also the nest they made from Ice Age flora that contributed significantly to science. The prisoners who found it should be thanked.
Sasha the Woolly Rhino
Finding a woolly rhino is extremely rare as they mostly survived the Ice Age and died when the planet began to warm up. However, a hunter from Yakutia, Russia, discovered one in September of 2015. The rhino was a baby and around 18 months old when she died.
In Sakha, the temperatures are deathly cold, although the baby rhino apparently drowned and then froze. The baby woolly rhino was named Sasha and in approximately 34,000 years old. In 2020, another fossilized woolly rhino was found in Yakutia and was around four years old when it died 20,000 years ago.
Yuka the Woolly Mammoth
Woolly mammoths are said to be distantly related to modern elephants. The extinct animals roamed the Earth during the Ice Age, and have their remains have been found on various continents. In 2010, in Siberia, the most intact mammoth was discovered and named Yuka.
The mammoth maintained most of her hide and soft tissue despite being dead for over 10,000 years. Yuka was approximately 6 to 9 years old when she died and was found with her brain preserved. Upon studying the woolly animal’s brain, scientists learned that mammoths’ mentalities were quite similar to elephants.
A Wall of Frozen Fish
In 2015, a group of fish was frozen in South Dakota and became a four-foot fish wall. The winter that year was frigid, and the water of Lake Andes National Park froze solid. Apparently, there had been a drought that lowered the levels of the lake.
The fish died because of oxygen lack caused by the depleted water level and the thick ice and snow covering the lake. When they died, they floated up to the top of the lake where the ice they were trapped in cracked and was pushed by strong winds into a vertical position.
Playing Prehistoric Darts
Recently another atlatl spear thrower was uncovered in Yukon by a helicopter pilot. Estimated to be 1,500 years old, the dart-like spear was found at the base of an ice patch. The well-preserved atlatl dart had all its parts intact, making it a treasured find.
The spear was more than five feet long and almost unbent. Another dart was found in Southern Yukon in 2021 and was covered with beaver secretion. It was common practice to use this orange secretion to decorate and reinforce atlatls 6,000 years ago. The dart was made of birch and fletched with feathers.
Vikings Artifacts Found in Norway
Between 700 and 1000 AD, Vikings, the piratelike Norsemen, sailed the northern European seas, raiding and pillaging every town they encountered. The television series Vikings began on the History channel and is extremely popular. In the past few years, many Vikings artifacts have been uncovered in Norway.
These relics of the Norsemen’s violent and valiant past date back 3,000 to 6,000 years. Among the findings are weapons, shoe parts, horseshoes, caribou traps, bows and arrows, kitchen tools, and even skis! The Vikings used these skis to walk quickly across the frozen land, like modern-day cross-country skiing.
World War One Was Cold
During the terrible WWI, commanders trained special troops to fight in high elevations. These mountain top troops could see their enemies approaching more easily, but they didn’t fare very well with the high altitude. Doing battle 10,000 feet above sea level sounds impossible even with the proper training.
Many of these special unit soldiers died from frostbite or hypothermia during their stay on these mountains and eventually froze. Recently well-preserved bodies have been excavated from the ice on Mount Scorluzzo in the Alps, dating over one hundred years old from the White War. The bodies were of two Austro-Hungarian soldiers.
Hunters and Gatherers
Aside from the many hunting artifacts found in Alaska, some artifacts remind us of the gatherers who foraged for food. A birch basket with intricate carvings was found in 2004. The basket was preserved in ice on the Wrangell Mountains near an ancient hunting camp.
The basket is estimated to be 650 years old and had been used to collect berries and other foods from the surrounding wilderness. The basket is made of birch bark, measures 10 inches wide and 2.3 inches high, and displays stitching holes. The thread used to sew the basket was made of roots.
Bringing Bacteria Back to Life
In the 1960s, carnobacterium pleistocenium bacteria was pulled out of a frozen Alaskan Lake. The specimens are approximately 30,000 years old, and NASA is highly interested in them. These extremophiles were found in permafrost and were the first organisms to come back to life when defrosted.
An abundant life-from that can thrive even in the craziest conditions, NASA has speculated that similar extremophiles may live in the frozen waters of Jupiter’s moons. Regenerating frozen life forms and bringing them back to life has excited scientists and the general public forever, but people want to see live dinosaurs more than bacteria.
Gentle Giants of the Ice Age
The closest science has gotten to reviving anything paleolithic has been bacteria and the Silene plant. However, ambitious scientists have been attempting to find a way to bring back the woolly mammoth. Since there have been frozen mammoths discovered with blood intact, researchers are trying to use it to implant mammoth DNA within elephant DNA.
So far, they have been unsuccessful in finding genetic material left in the frozen blood. However, they know the mammoth’s genetic sequence thanks to saliva found on Ice Age hairballs. So, attempts have been made to alter elephant genes to mirror mammoths’.
Middle Earth or Inner Earth?
Complete ecosystems, untouched by man, exist underneath the top layer of the planet. Whether underwater, under Earth, or underground these ancient ecosystems remain where they were before plates moved and they were covered. Such an environment is present under Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.
Debris and rocks or glacial till covered an entire forest, and only now that the ice is melting are these woods being revealed. Under Mendenhall, near Juneau, treetops can be stopped popping out of the melting glaciers and are surprisingly still standing. The famous glacier is also known for its dangerous and beautiful underground ice caves.
The End of the Elk
An ice skater found a Moose frozen into a lake in Norway in 2017. The European Elk first looked to the skater like a piece of wood, but the antlers made it evident that it was a frozen animal at closer inspection. The moose had been crossing the lake when the ice cracked, and it fell into its cold grave.
In Alaska, in 2016, two frozen moose were found frozen locked in combat. Two hikers discovered them in eight inches of ice. They fought their way into the water, drowned, and were stuck together in eternal battle.
Bacterial Lab Research
Bacteria evolve far faster than other flora and fauna and can morph into new variants within days. Therefore, scientists dissected bacteria specimens from the oldest known ice on Earth and discovered that the organisms were over eight million years old. For the bacteria to have survived so long is must be unique.
The ability of bacterial pathogens to spore helps these unicellular organisms to hibernate and survive for centuries. Scientists have grown the bacteria back and revived it. However, this multi-million-year-old bacteria is slowly increasing, whereas younger bacteria, dating back 100,000 years, have multiplied rapidly.
Frozen Frog Findings
Some frogs can survive in the cold climates of the pole, but this poor frog didn’t make it. Found entombed in ice on a Canadian pond, the frog was probably trapped by a sudden temperature drop. When the water the frog was on froze, the amphibian did too.
Many frog species can survive the freezing cold months, though they must dig down below the surface to do so. North America alone has five different types of frogs who live all the way through the cold and icy winters. Some frogs can survive the freezing of their blood and tissues for months.