People aboard the Russian icebreaker ship 50 Years of Victory in 2018 believed the time capsule they placed in ice in the Arctic Circle would stay there for at least three decades—and were shocked to learn this week that in just two years, the ice melt in the Arctic has been so severe that the container has already been uncovered.
Conor McClory and Sophie Curran of County Donegal, Ireland found the metal container washed up on the shore on the country's northwestern coast, 2,300 miles away from where it had been left in an ice floe two years earlier.
The capsule contained photos, poems, a restaurant menu, and other artifacts that people aboard 50 Years of Victory had thought would give whoever found the container—in an estimated 30 to 50 years—a sense of what life was like in the early 21st century.
— Donegal Daily (@DonegalDaily) November 2, 2020
“Everything around is covered by ice," one passenger wrote in a letter. "We think that by the time this letter will be found there is no more ice in Arctic unfortunately."
Curran and McClory's discovery alarmed climate action advocates.
"We are at the 'Arctic time capsules left in the ice two years ago have already washed up in Ireland' stage of climate disaster," tweeted Michael Whitney, a photojournalist and former fundraiser for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Tourists in the #Arctic buried a time-capsule in 2018, they expected it would take 30 to 50 years for it to be found. The capsule just traveled nearly 4,000km, & was found in #Ireland. This goes to show how quickly things are changing in the poleshttps://t.co/OAtS7bpqdI
— Monika Naranjo-Shepherd (@MNKnaranjo) November 6, 2020
The discovery of the time capsule is just the latest evidence of rapidly melting ice in the Arctic. As Common Dreams reported last month, the Laptev Sea in Siberia had yet to begin freezing as of October 22—an "unprecedented" delay brought on by the heating of the planet.
In September, federal scientists in the U.S. reported that ice in the Arctic had shrunk to its second-lowest extant since records began four decades ago. The 14 lowest sea ice extants have all been recorded in the last 14 years.
European Union experts also warned last month that 2020 is on pace to overtake 2016 as the hottest year on record.
With the U.S. now withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement—a decision made by President Donald Trump in 2017 which sparked international outrage and became official on Wednesday—the news of the time capsule was "very troubling," tweeted Irish physician Aoife Thomas Doyle.
This is very troubling. And the USA left the #ParisAgreement on #ClimateChange only yesterday. Meanwhile many people in high places are still in denial about the reality of climate change.
How much proof do we need? https://t.co/sPAW1Xrxw3
— Aoife Thomas Doyle (@AoifeTDoyle) November 5, 2020
"Meanwhile many people in high places are still in denial about the reality of climate change," she tweeted. "How much proof do we need?"