Cold War Project Led to Discovery of Plant Fossils Under Greenland Ice

Crevasses on top of the Helheim glacier near Tasiilaq, Greenland, on June 19, 2018.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson

During the Cold War, US Army scientists planned to hide hundreds of nuclear warheads underneath the Greenland ice sheet in a covert mission known as “Project Iceworm.”

It was 1960 and tensions were mounting between the US and Soviet Union. If nuclear war broke out, the US wanted to be close enough to strike the USSR with medium-range missiles.

But the top-secret project was abandoned after scientists realized that the ice sheet was moving too quickly: Within two years, the trenches dug by the military would be destroyed.

The work wasn’t entirely fruitless, though, since geologists held onto samples of ancient soil from roughly 4,500 feet below the surface of the ice. The frozen chunks were stored in glass cookie jars for five decades, until researchers at the University of Vermont got hold of them, thawed the chunks, and began to rinse the sediment in the lab.

In doing so, one of those researchers, Paul Bierman, suddenly turned to his colleague, Andrew Christ: “What is that stuff floating in the water?” he asked.

Christ sucked up the floating specs with a pipette, then placed them under a microscope.

“It was amazing,” he told Insider. “They were these delicate little twigs and leaves that just started to unfurl when they were wet. They are so well-preserved that they look like they died yesterday.” More about this in the link below…

https://www.businessinsider.com/cold-war-project-greenland-ice-sheet-plant-fossils-2021-3?amp

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