The Alps Mountain range in Europe is losing huge chunks of ice as glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates. As worrisome as it is, the melting glaciers are also resulting in thrilling occurrences and events. Researchers recently discovered a mummified chamois, a goat-antelope mix, believed to be 500 years old. Upon close inspection, they found that the animal was a young female and was roughly two-feet tall. The discovery was made by Andrea Fischer, an alpine glaciologist at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Mountain Research in Innsbruck, and a colleague named Martin Stocker-Waldhuber. “It is incredible and it is incredible that she is sitting exactly where we do our research and that we passed right when it was coming out of the ice,” Fischer told National Geographic.
Martin was checking up on a weather station when he noticed the horns of the chamois peeking through the melting ice. Although hundreds of years old, its vertebrae and her ribcage were still covered with stretched, taut, and leathery skin. There was also some fur covering the hooves.
Interestingly, Martin saw the horns peeking out of the snow last year but too little was over the surface for the chamois to be extracted safely. Before it could come further out, the winter snow buried it again. This summer, the glaciers witnessed a more profuse melting, which helped the researchers extract the mummified animal without damaging it.
Seeing that on top of the Gepatschferner glacier, at an elevation of 11,500ft, the fossil could get subjected to various factors that could damage it, including wind, and predators, among others, Fischer was quick to secure the fossil. She wrapped it and took it back to the laboratory in a helicopter.
Climate change and global warming have increased the frequency of such finds, including long-lost hikers and soldiers from the time of World War I. As per first-hand account of Fischer, the ice, this year, has depleted as much as seven metres, much more than how much melted last summer.