Arctic Climate Changes
By Clark Whelton
discussion about mammoths on Wrangel Island in the Arctic prompts me to
re-post an earlier message about well-preserved temperate forests at 79
degrees north latitude. The discovery of non-mineralized fresh-looking
deciduous trees and the fossils of tropical fauna on Axel Heiberg Island
still strikes me as remarkable.
The appeal to continental drift does not explain the well-preserved remains of temperate forests discovered on Axel Heiberg Island, which, at 79 degrees n. latitude, is deep within the Arctic Circle. Articles in "Canadian Geographic" (Vol. 106, no. 6) and "Equinox" (May-June 1986) describe the surprise that awaited a member of the Geological Survey of
Canada when he arrived on Axel Heiberg in 1985. "He had found the
remains of a 45 million year old forest just 1,100 kms. from the North
Pole... The sense of being transported into the past is made all the
more real by the remarkable preservation of the fossils. The wood
cypress and dawn redwood) has not been altered through all this time;
it looks and feels like freshly cut wood —it splits and splinters,
it can be
carved with a knife, and it burns as readily as kindling.Most
impressive of all, it still has that reddish hue we often find in
lumber. The only thing missing is the scent (of fresh wood)."
tree trunks of the deciduous trees and their still-rooted stumps were
perfectly preserved. Beneath a layer of silt were found
well-preserved leaf mats. "Sorting through these mats is much like probing
beneath a modern forest." On Ellesmere Island, also in the high
Arctic, have been found "tree trunks so perfectly preserved they give the
illusion of having fallen yesterday, rather than 50 million years
close examination of the fossilized wood revealed regular growth
rings, a sign of seasonality... the Arctic trees (had been) growing in
swamps, which were also inhabited by alligators and giant salamanders
(and numerous other tropical and temperate fauna)."
clear how deciduous trees and reptiles survived six months of Arctic
darkness, let alone the accompanying cold.
regarding continental drift, "Axel Heiberg is today only a few hundred
kilometres closer to the North Pole than it was when these forests