Were glaciers thicker decades ago? Most expert will say yes. How much thicker? That’s a little harder to determine. A maintenance worker for Glacier 3000, a company that manages cable cares and ski lifts near the Les Diablerets resort in the Swiss Alps, found a couple last week who looks the same as they did 75 years ago. They could probably tell him if they weren’t frozen solid in the melting glacier.
“It was a man and a woman wearing clothes from the last (world) war. The ice preserved them perfectly and their belongings were intact. They were lying there, close to each other. The ice has preserved them.”
Le Matin reports that the bodies were found at an altitude of about 8,600 feet in the Diablerets mountain range in the Bernese Alps. “Les Diablerets” is French for "the abode of devils" and these craggy peaks are covered by the the Diablerets Glacier at the higher altitude and the Tsanfleuron Glacier below it. Perhaps “covered” is no longer the case, as Bernhard Tschannen, the CEO of Glacier 3000, explains:
"Every year we lose a meter or half a meter of ice. Eighty years ago this glacier was much bigger than it is now."
Eighty years ago, Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, a shoemaker and schoolteacher, were raising seven children and some dairy cows in the village of Chandolin. On August 15, 1942, the couple left to either milk their cows or visit a chalet in Bern and never returned. After an intense two-month search, the Dumoulins were declared dead and their orphaned children placed with relatives or in foster homes.
According to the report, the Glacier 3000 worker was attending to equipment near the Tsanfleuron glacier when he saw a foot in the ice. A quick search revealed boots, a hat, backpacks, a bottle, a book, a watch … and the sad frozen remains of the couple, side by side. After police investigated and barricaded the scene, a block of ice containing the bodies was removed and taken for DNA analysis, which confirmed their identity as the missing Dumoulins. Their two surviving children were notified.
“Everything suggests that they were trying to reach the canton of Bern on foot, as was sometimes the case at the time. That was the shortest route."
According to police spokesperson Stéphane Vouardoux, the disappearance saddened and haunted local residents to this day. While it appears the couple may have stumbled into a crevice, the “Abode of the Devils” aren’t called that to be cute. Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, one of the surviving children, says this will be reflected in the funeral.
“We will arrange a funeral for them as if they had just passed away. The religious aspect is very important for me.”
The old ‘devils’ in the Diablerets were the ice-covered crags and crevices where hikers could easily lose their footing, fall and disappear forever … or at least for decades. Those devils are disappearing as the new devils of climate change melt the glaciers that have been frozen for eons.
What will these new devils reveal? Which ones are worse?