(CNN) — The quest for lost treasures has long been a staple of travel legend. So has the idea of ill-fated exploration expeditions. Now, seven months after the discovery of Ernest Shackleton’s ship HMS Endurance, comes a new discovery: the cameras of explorer Bradford Washburn, lost on a remote mountain glacier 85 years ago.
Explorer Griffin Post, leading an expedition for Teton Gravity Research, located the equipment on the remote Walsh Glacier in Canada’s Yukon Territory during a week-long search in August.
In June 1937, Washburn and his climbing partner Robert Bates set off on a mission to climb Mount Lucania — Canada’s third highest mountain at 17,147 feet, and at that time the last unclimbed peak in North America. It is part of the Kluane National Park and Reserve on the Traditional Territory of the Kluane First Nation.
They were due to start and end their climb at the Walsh Glacier, halfway up at 8,750 feet, but it wasn’t to be. Freak weather meant there was slush on the glacier — the plane which brought them there became stuck, and the pilot refused to return for the explorers. Stranded, the pair had to make not only the ascent, but also the full descent back on foot, hiking over 150 miles through the wilderness to the nearest town. In order to do that, however, they had to dump their belongings: a 900-pound cache of gear including tents, mountaineering equipment and three cameras.
The cameras were retrieved by Post’s team, along with the rest of the equipment — and two of them were still loaded with film. They have now been handed over to the Parks Canada team which will try to develop the photos.
Post tells CNN that he’d got the idea for the expedition two years ago when reading “Escape from Lucania,” which tells the story of the Washburn-Bates expedition and mentions the abandonment of the cache.
“In the epilogue they fly over the area and Washburn says, ‘We should go back and look for that gear.’ Six months later I was still thinking about it,” he says.
‘What are we doing?’
Post matched aerial photos of the glacier with their physical location.
Tyler Ravelle/Teton Gravity Research
Of course, locating something left on a moving glacier is rather more tricky than finding something buried in a regular place. During the 18 months of preparation for the expedition, Post combed through old documents, journals and correspondence to try and pinpoint the original spot, while a cache team from the University of Ottawa, led by Dr. Luke Copland, used glacial mapping processes to work out how far the cache could have traveled in eight decades.
By August, they were ready to try.