We all have the habit of leaving things in our freezer for years and forgetting about them. When we finally clean up, we are amazed by the contents inside. Similar to us, Mother Nature has a habit of keeping things frozen. Permafrost is kind of like nature’s own deep freeze. The permanently frozen land makes up about a quarter of all the land in the Northern Hemisphere. As humans further explore these untouched parts of Earth, they come across things that are old and preserved perfectly. Without further ado, here are six of the most terrifying and weird things that came out of the permafrost.
1. WWI Soldiers
In the frozen Italian glacier, an amateur historian came across the mummified body of a WWI soldier.
The discovery was made by Dino De Bernardin, as he was strolling through the mountains close to his home. The location to which the mummified body was found, had been the scene of a war that took place between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Italy. The body was revealed because of the melting ice and it is believed that there are thousands of yet undiscovered bodies in the location. Dino thought he had seen a ‘bundle of rags’ emerging from the melting ice, but was in fact a WWI soldier.
In 2004, a mountain guide named Maurizio Vicenzi stumbled upon three mummified WW1 soldiers that were hanging from an ice wall at the San Matteo peak. (source)
2. 30,000-Year-Old Virus
Scientists recently discovered an ancient virus buried underneath the Siberian permafrost.
The virus, which is known as Mollivirus sibericum, belongs to a group of other ancient viruses known as “giant” viruses. Since 2003, scientists have discovered four other giant viruses. Even though Mollivirus sibericum doesn’t pose any threat to humanity, scientists believe that the reawakening of similar viruses from under the permafrost could be dangerous one day. Scientists also say that climate change is a real concern, since it plays a crucial role in the melting of permafrost.
Mollivirus sibericum, is the second oldest (30,000-year-old) virus that has been unearthed from the Siberian permafrost. (source)
3. Woolly Mammoths
In the frozen tundra of Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, a reindeer breeder named Yuri Khudi came across an astonishing discovery.
In 2007, as Yuri Khudi was working his regular schedule, he came across the mummified body of a baby mammoth that had been preserved for more than 42,000 years. Yuri was amazed with his finding and decided to trek over 150 miles to notify a local museum director. When authorities from the museum arrived, they were amazed because what Yuri had discovered was a nearly 42,000-year-old baby mammoth.
Lubya is one of the best preserved mammoths in the world. Scientists analyzed the remains and were able to exactly pinpoint what the mammoth ate before its death, as well as the reason for its death. According to the sediments discovered in Lyuba’s trunk, scientists believe that the baby mammoth fell into a mud hole and suffocated. Other ice-age animals were also discovered around the permafrost; such as horses and wooly-rhinos. (source)
4. Human bodies
The practice of body burial is something that has been followed for centuries. But, sometimes these bodies don’t stay buried forever.
A permafrost that thawed in the Norwegian Arctic yielded more than what scientists bargained for. Six human bodies were discovered in the region. As scientists examined them, they learned that the bodies were covered with the smallpox virus. The viruses are capable of surviving for long-periods of time. Scientists fear that the thawing of permafrost will reveal more bodies and if someone comes in contact with a smallpox-infested body, they could contract the disease.
In the 1980’s, a river that was subjected to drought exposed a mass grave near Pokhodsk, Siberia. Many believe that bodies uncovered like these could be reservoirs for past diseases and could potentially be the downfall of civilization. (source 1, 2)
5. Ötzi, The Iceman
On September 19, 1991, at the Ötztal Alps, two hikers came across a deceased body that they believed to be of a mountaineer.
After making their way through the mountain pass, the hikers contacted authorities in order to retrieve the body. Authorities were amazed when they examined the body, as it had little to no sign of decomposition. Konrad Spindler, an archeologist, examined the body and determined that it was at least 4,000 years old. It was later revealed through advanced testing that the body was 5,300 years old. A DNA analysis as well as CAT scan was performed on the body, which was named Ötzi. The tests revealed that the body had an arrowhead, as well as several cuts on it.
Scientists believe that Ötzi was killed while out hunting by a rival group. His body was then preserved by the cold mountain air and ice; transforming it into a mummy. Today, the body is kept on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano. (source)
6. Mexican Hikers
In 1959, in the slopes of Pico de Orizaba, seven hikers went for a hike but only four returned.
In 2015, at about 17,290 feet on the highest mountain in Mexico, hikers came across a head and an arm protruding out of the snow. As they digged to reveal the mystery, they saw two bodies; mummified and clinging for warmth. The mummified bodies were in fact the bodies of two of the hikers who went missing during the 1959 expedition. One of the survivors from the 1959 expedition, Luis Espinoza, analyzed and confirmed that it was the bodies of his friends; a reunion that took place 56 years after being separated. (source)