It’s amazing what artifacts you can find buried in the ice. (No I’m not talking about that leftover turkey that’s been in your freezer since last Thanksgiving. Though if you consider that an historical find, more power to you.)
Last month Discoblog brought you the story of the century-old whiskey that British explorer Ernest Shackleton left on Antarctica, which New Zealanders recovered and plan to replicate. Now scientists have analyzed a soup can found in the Canadian Arctic that dates to around the time of the famous Franklin Expedition, and could point to how its members met their doom.
New Zealand explorers are Antarctica-bound to rescue a cache of rare whiskey left on the continent by British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton during his journey in 1909.
Buried under the floorboards of a hut where his crew spent a long, dark winter are two crates of an extinct brand of McKinlay and Co. whiskey. Experts say the historic booze has been preserved in ice, according to Stuff.co.az:
The New Zealanders will use special drills to free the trapped crates and rescue a bottle from the crates, discarded near the Cape Royds hut used by the Nimrod expedition, or at least draw off a sample using a syringe.
However, they won’t be sipping the whiskey if they can remove it. International protocols say the crates can be removed from Antarctica for conservation only. Whyte & Mackay, the distillery that owns McKinlay and Co., says if they can draw a sample, the blend could be replicated and put back into production. So one day soon, you too could be sipping on Shackleton’s preferred hooch.
Let’s hope their drilling adventure goes more smoothly than other recent trips to Antarctica…
Discoblog: Antarctic Glaciers Melt and Spill Their Secret: DDT
Discoblog: Antarctica and the American Southwest: Former Neighbors?
Discoblog: Using Nuclear Tests on “Aged” Whiskey Could Save You $30,000
Image: flickr / individuo
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Global warming could bring a strange assortment of winners and losers. Greenland could be a winner, The New York Times says, as melting glaciers free up land once buried under ice. Northern Japan, on the other hand, might be a loser, and not just because rising seas may start to reclaim the islands.
Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, has both an ecosystem and an economy that depend on Arctic ice floating down from the Sea of Okhotsk at the eastern edge of Russia. The drift ice brings nutrients that feed phytoplankton, which form the base of the area’s ecosystem. And tourists flock there for the chance to stand on an Arctic iceberg.
On Monday we brought you the story of the Russian scientists forced to evacuate their Arctic research station because their ice floe melted. Today, Nature has an interview with Jürgen Graeser, a German scientist who spent the winter with the Russians at North Pole 35.
So what did Graeser learn during his time up there?
1. Bring a flare gun. Graeser guesses that the team had 30 or so separate run-ins with polar bears, but none of them turned deadly because the flares scared off the bears.
Earlier this month, we wrote that Santa Claus might have no home this summer as scientists speculate that the Earth could see an ice-free North Pole. Now Russian scientists trying to study Arctic warming have had to abandon their work to keep from ending up all wet.
In September, the Russian team set up North Pole 35, an Arctic headquarters where they could study pollution levels the how fast the ice was melting. Unfortunately for them, and the world in general, the ice melted faster than they anticipated: Their ice floe home, which was almost four miles wide in September, shrank to only one-third of a mile across this summer. Russia evacuated, and the last 20 scientists and their dogs climbed aboard a rescue ship yesterday.
Do penguins like salsa?
As the continents have made their slow drift around the world, the landmasses have intermingled in all sorts of ways, and occasionally formed supercontinents like Pangaea and Gondwanaland. Now, University of Minnesota Duluth geologist John Goodge says that in a supercontinent called Rodinia, which sat near the Equator 800 million years ago, Antarctica and Arizona used to be neighbors.
According to Science News, experts have argued over what bordered Laurentia—the geologic name for the large landmass that contained most of what is now North America—during the time the continents were clustered in Rodinia. Australia, Siberia and China were all candidates.
So Goodge tested the presence of different chemical isotopes, trying to get a match. And he did—to Eastern Antarctica. Granite found there matches the chemical composition of granite from the American Southwest, he says, and the Transantarctic Mountains contain the same sediments as Laurentian samples he’s studied.
The Antarctica-America connection may have been short-lived; Rodinia broke apart about 750 million years ago. No word yet whether the split was amicable.
Antarctica’s Adelie penguins have shown traces of DDT since scientists started tracking the data in the 1970s. But alarmingly, the DDT concentration has remained about the same, even as the world has cut its DDT use by 80 to 90 percent since the 1960s. Although DDT persists in the environment—as famously documented in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring—its presence should decrease over time unless a new source is leaching DDT into the ecosystem, according to a study led by Heidi Geisz at the College of William and Mary. And Geisz’s team thinks they’ve figured out what the new source is: Glaciers.