Melting Glaciers Have Exposed Frozen Relics of World War I

As glaciers melt and shrink in the Alps of Northern Italy, long-frozen relics of World War I have been emerging from the ice.

They include cups, cans, letters, weapons and bones with the marrow sucked dry. They were found in cave barracks not far from the frigid summit of Mount Scorluzzo, which reaches more than 10,000 feet over sea level in Northern Italy, near Switzerland.

The Austro-Hungarian soldiers who occupied those barracks were fighting Italian troops in what became known as the White War. There in the Alps — removed from the more famous Western Front, a site of bloody trench warfare between Germany and France — troops climbed to precarious heights in the stinging cold to carve fortifications into the rock and snow.

The weather that tested the troops on Mount Scorluzzo ultimately preserved their barracks, freezing the entrance shut after soldiers abandoned their post at the end of the war in 1918. The structure was essentially impenetrable for decades — until 2017, when enough of the ice and snow had melted, allowing researchers to enter.

The barracks, in Stelvio National Park, are “sort of a time machine,” said Stefano Morosini, a historian who coordinates heritage projects for the park and is a professor at the University of Bergamo in Italy.

“We are interested not only in a historical way, but also in a scientific way,” he added. “How was the pollution? How were the epidemiological conditions in the barracks? How did the soldiers sleep, and how did they suffer? What did they eat?”

“On no front, not on the sun-scorched plains of Mesopotamia, nor in the frozen Mazurian marshes, nor in the blood-soaked mud of Flanders, does the fighting man lead so arduous an existence as up here on the roof of the world.”

Now, Italian scientists and researchers are working to reconstruct the daily lives of the soldiers who fought at the frozen front.

Already, it is clear that they battled starvation — they were hungry enough to eat bone marrow and fruit pits — and that they did their best to fight the cold with layers of fabric and fur. They also wrote letters to their loved ones, telling of spectacular views and horrible conditions.

“We are not so interested in the guns, because guns are a way to kill,” Mr. Morosini said. “We are interested in the relics that show the extreme environmental conditions, and the extreme life conditions, of these soldiers.”

Sahred From Source link Science

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