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Expedition locates long-lost Yukon explorer’s cameras that had been missing for over 80 years
Whoa, this is amazing!
Luis Gaskell
11.08.22

Sometimes, the most interesting history is the kind you never expected to find.

85-years-ago, explorer Bradford Washburn lost some cameras around a Yukon Glacier.

But how did they get lost?

Well, back in 1937, Washburn and his partner Robert Bates took a heft load of photography equipment with them to the mountains in Walsh glacier.

They were setting out for Mount Lucania close by with nearly half a ton of photography equipment.

That’s a load of equipment to take with you, especially if the weather doesn’t prove to be particularly nice that day.

And pleasant the weather was not.

Conditions got poorer and other campers who were with Washburn and Bates couldn’t join them.

This forced the pair to travel light.

They made the trip, but left the gear behind and never bothered to retrieve it.

Naturally, the lost camera equipment was bound to stir someone else’s curiosity years later.

Why would someone just leave behind that many cameras? And what secrets could they be hiding?

If anyone was going to track down that equipment decades later, it’d have to be someone who also knows how to navigate a mountain.

Well, Griffin Post would take up the challenge.

A big mountain skier, Griffin Post set out on the 3-week-long expedition to track down the lost equipment.

He wasn’t alone. Post set out with other explorers and scientists to Canada’s Kluane National Park and Reserve to get the job done.

Dora Medrzycka was part of the team.

Medrzycka is a glaciologist from the University of Ottawa.

“They essentially needed help to figure out how the glacier is moving and what’s the best way of finding the cache,” she said as she explained her role

Over 80 years is a long time.

More than enough time for that stash of equipment to have moved someplace else.

They scanned for kilometers upon kilometers.

They searched on foot and used skis and snowboards when that wasn’t possible.

Post carefully examined the 1937 photos of the camp that still survived.

The goal was to find any matching geographical scenery.

It seemed like their search wasn’t turning anything up. Would it be time to call it quits?

They thought so too.

That was until August when Medrzycka discovered a curious trail of debris running along the entire length of the glacier.

With this new data, the glaciologist had a new hypothesis for the Walsh glacier.

Medryzcka learned that this was a surge glacier.

If that sounds like a special kind of glacier, then you guessed right.

A surge glacier moves at an irregular pace compared to a typical glacier. It moves slightly faster for 1-2 year intervals every decade.

With this new information, the team located the missing photo equipment.

It was 14 miles from where Washburn left it in 1937.

It was two kilometers from where they’d originally been searching. Post and the team found some old goggles there, which was a good sign. He recalls how he reacted with his team.

“That moment was just like, such disbelief. It’s funny, of course you’re fascinated and you want to look at the objects, but my first reaction was to give one of the crew members a hug.”

When they found the actual stash, it was way more promising than just some old goggles and cans.

The actual stash of equipment had two motion picture cameras and a satellite camera.

They will try to develop images, if there are any, from the salvaged equipment. There’s no promise of anything exciting, but it wouldn’t hurt to learn more about what Washburn was doing at the time.

But just as valuable was the new information they had on the Walsh glacier.

Medrzycka learned a great deal about how glaciers move, and so did all of us.

It’s an age-old case of the journey mattering as much as the destination.

In short, they had a pretty eventful trip. Now it’s time to see if the souvenirs will yield anything more.

Learn more about the story in the video below!

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By Luis Gaskell
hi@sbly.com
Luis Gaskell is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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