Researchers in Antarctica spent an entire year scaling the icy mountains looking for clues to something they knew existed in the area long before all of the ice covered the entire continent: forests. The entirety of the land that today is a barren tundra used to be filled with luscious green life.
After the trip, they had 13 fossils from some of the ancient trees. And they dated back over 250 million years ago. One scientist who went along on the trip said that the samples are “some of the best-preserved” of their kind in the entire world. A remarkable discovery.
A Secret Military Base
Camp Century is an old military base in Greenland that is buried more than 20 feet below the icy ground. The site was built as a nuclear testing facility and to house U.S. army troops back in the 1960s but was abandoned in 1967.
The complex is located underground and consists of a series of interconnecting tunnels. The abandonment of the facility may have had something to do with the fact that it was built without the direct permission of the government in Denmark. Camp Century consisted of several housing units, a movie theatre, a store, and a hospital.
Subglacial Nuclear Reactor
Attached to Camp Century was the world’s very first mobile nuclear generator. The entire operation was so elaborate that it ended up being dubbed the “city under the ice.” But as you can imagine, the local government wasn’t very happy about the U.S. messing with nuclear energy on their turf.
In those days, global warming hadn’t yet been discovered, and U.S. officials who were in charge of the project that for sure that they would never be found out. The reactor, along with Camp Century, was just some pieces of a much larger (secret) military operation known as Project Iceworm.
The fossils found in 2017 in Antarctica were petrified, which means the plants had basically turned to stone from the inside out. They were able to teach scientists a lot, but they weren’t able to revive the plants since they were long dead. But this fossil of the Wollemi Pine – a tree that was alive hundreds of millions of years ago when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth – is alive.
One of the lead researchers on the team handling the discovery has called it the “equivalent of finding a living dinosaur.” Let's face it - it is a living thing from a long time ago. So we guess they're kind of right.
Prehistoric Plant Life
Although most of the flora from hundreds of millions of years ago eventually died off, scientists have been able to determine that while it was here – it fought the good fight. Conditions in those days often meant that these plants would spend a consecutive 5 months in the sun and another with consistent sunlight.
They still are not entirely sure how they were able to survive it, just that they did. Today, plants take a much longer time to transition between the seasons, whereas millions of years ago, they could seemingly do so overnight! Ultimately, nature finds a way to survive.