In the midst of a routine inspection tour, a ski-lift technician who works for the Swiss adventure resort Glacier 3000 thought he found a bunch of black rocks near Tsanfleuron glacier in the western Bernese Alps. Upon close inspection he found out that it was mummified bodies.
They are the bodies of Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin according to the DNA test confirmation. This couple got lost on August 15 1942 in the morning when they went out to feed their cattle.
How did their bodies get so perfectly preserved in the glacier?
There are various speculations that the couple might have fallen into a crevasse or a snowstorm might have made it impossible to locate them. Regardless of what might have happened to them the water inside their bodies froze completely. The ice crystal in tissues didn’t stay intact according to Dan Fisher who is a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Michigan and he was not involved in the identification of the remains.
“The tissue starts out with a high water content, but that water would freeze, and in many cases, actually under those frozen conditions, when surrounded with [air] low water-vapor content, the ice crystals in the tissue can sublimate,” Fisher told Live Science.
Sublimation is the process by which solid ice transitions directly into water vapor without ever becoming liquid. In other words, the tissue dried out, Fisher said.
As such, it was both the cold and the dry conditions of the glacier that hindered the work of bacteria and fungi, as well as the chemical processes that would normally decompose human tissue, leaving the bodies quite well-preserved under the ice.
Additionally, the bodies stayed intact likely because the Tsanfleuron glacier may be quite stable, even though glaciers, rivers of slow-flowing ice, are in continuous motion. This glacier kept a steady pace and didn’t retreat much.
They creep forward when more ice and snow are added than lost, and retreat when more ice and snow is lost or melted, according to Martin Callanan, an associate professor of archaeology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who was not involved in identifying the remains.
Temperatures around the world in 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on the planet since 1880. This warming is the cause of shrinkage of glaciers throughout the world. A study was conducted in 2016 in Nature Geoscience has confirmed it with 99% certainty.
This recent identification of the Dumoulins is a great relief for their daughter Marceline Udry- Dumoulin. She is one of their seven children who was only 4 years old when her parents went missing. After their disappearance the local rescue teams looked for them in crevasses for two months but failed to find them
“I climbed the glacier three times afterwards, always looking for them,” Udry-Dumoulin told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin. “I kept wondering if they had suffered and what had become of them. Now I have the pleasure of having answers to these questions.”