Two researchers in a remote area of the Canadian Arctic stumbled upon a mysterious message in a bottle. The note, stuffed inside a bottle and tucked between some rocks nearly 500 miles from the nearest human settlement, was dated July 10, 1959.
According to the Halifax Chronicle Herald, researchers from Laval University in Quebec City were exploring an area near the edge of a glacier on Ward Hunt Island, Canada’s closest point to the North Pole, when they discovered the message in a bottle. The note inside, penciled on lined white paper, included instructions for whomever discovered the message. It also included the names and addresses of the people who left it there.
The names were Paul Walker and Albert Crary, both of whom were well known in the polar geological research world.
“I recognized the two names instantly,” biologist Warwick F. Vincent, director of the Center for Northern Studies at Laval University in Quebec City, told the Los Angeles Times. “Walker is a famous name in our parts up there because the highest point on Ward Hunt Island is called Walker Hill. ... we’ve been camping next to Walker Hill now for over 10 years.”
Continue Reading Below
At the time the note was left, Walker was a 25-year-old geologist from Ohio. Crary was a colleague of his who lived in Boston.
So what exactly did the message, discovered in a 250-milliliter plastic sample bottle, request of its acquirer? According to reports, the note simply asked its finder to measure the distance between a nearby rock formation and the edge of a nearby ice shelf.
“Anyone venturing this way is requested to re-measure the distance and send the information” to Walker’s Ohio address, the note read. “Thank you very much.”
Unfortunately, Walker would never receive that information. According to the Los Angeles Times, shortly after he wrote the note, Walker suffered a massive stroke and had to be airlifted out of the Arctic by a bush pilot. The stroke left Walker paralyzed and, after spending several weeks at his parents' home in Pasadena, Calif., the famed geologist died.
Crary went on to lead a mission to the South Pole in 1961. The U.S. Arctic Program's Science and Engineering Center at McMurdo Bay, Antarctica, bears his name.
Vincent and his fellow scientists, who were collecting microbes in the valley where the note was found, did as the researchers before them had requested, and measured the distance from the rocks to the ice shelf. Using GPS equipment, they found that since the message in a bottle was written, the ice shelf had retreated some 200 feet.
Vincent told the Halifax Chronicle Herald it was remarkable that Walker thought to leave the note where he did. “Because in the ’50s, it was unthinkable that this would melt,” he said.
“We were reading some of his last words,” Vincent told the Los Angeles Times. “He didn’t know at that stage whether the glacier was advancing or retreating. But he wanted a reference point that would allow future researchers in the area to provide him with important data.”