Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bodies from the Ice by James M. Deem

Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past

Whether or not you believe in global warming, there can’t be any denial that glaciers around the world are shrinking. Many scientists are alarmed at the rate glaciers are melting. Shrinking glaciers are those that lose ice faster than they accumulate ice. However, many archeologists have benefitted from this phenomenon. To understand why, you need to know a few things about glaciers.

Glaciers are compacted masses of frozen ice that can move like giant slow-motion conveyor belts. Glaciers move debris trapped inside and gradually push the soil underneath farther downhill until the glacier loses its ice through melting. Not only has melting increased recently, but the rate at which glaciers are moving has also accelerated.

Glaciers can preserve objects that are made of wood, metal, and clothing. Even flesh and bone can be frozen in time by a glacier. (It seems like hair is especially resistant to decay when preserved in ice.)

The front of an advancing glacier is called the snout. It is unusual to find man-made objects, or even someone's remains deposited at a glacier's snout, but it is happening more frequently due to changing climate conditions. The snouts of glaciers occasionally reveal coins, artifacts, clothing and sometimes bones of hikers and explorers that tragically fell into a glacier's dangerous crevasses years ago. Typically, body parts or a person’s belongings will not show up again for decades, and possibly not even for hundreds of years.

Many secrets that a glacier would normally hide for hundreds of years are being revealed now on a much quicker timetable. One secret hidden by a glacier in Europe may never had been revealed except for the recent change in climate conditions. On the border of Austria and Italy, a couple of hikers discovered a body partially exposed in a glacier. Authorities expected the body to be a missing hiker from the early 20th century. The iceman (he was later called "Otzi") proved to have lived over five thousand years ago. He also may have been murdered. Another secret revealed by recent melting was that of a famous climber that died on Mount Everest. George Mallory may have been the first man to climb Mount Everest-not Sir Edmund Hilary, but Mallory's secret died with him on the mountain in 1924. An expedition in 1999 found his body which had been hidden by ice so many years.

If you are interested in examining the evidence for yourself, you may agree that foul play was involved in Otzi’s death. If you would like to explore other mysteries that have been revealed by other melting glaciers, then I would like to recommend, Bodies from the Ice, by James M. Deem.

Related Sites:
Author's Glacier Page
All About Glaciers
PBS-Nova-George Mallory
PBS-Nova-Iceman's Last Meal
Wikipedia Article on Otzi
PBS-Nova Science Now-Glaciers that might wreak havoc

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