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Last Request Honored 54 Years Later

Getty Images / Retrofile / H. Armstrong Roberts

Last Request Honored 54 Years Later

More than 50 years ago, a young glaciologist from California took a break from his work on Canada's northernmost island and left a message for future explorers following in his footsteps.

It was a simple request, to measure the distance from a specific rock to the edge of a nearby glacier and report the findings to his office at Ohio State University. He wrote the words out, put them in a bottle and buried them underneath a rock pile.

Unfortunately, Paul T. Walker never received any reports about the glacier. He died of a stroke several weeks later at age 25.

For decades the bottle remained undisturbed, containing what likely were the last written words of a promising scientist, forgotten to history. Forgotten, that is, until last year, when another expedition to the area happened to discover the bottle and its message. The glaciologists carried out Walker's last request and took measurements with their GPS equipment. Thanks to Walker's forethought and precise instructions, the team was able to determine that the ice sheet had retreated 200 feet in the last 54 years.

Read more about Walker and his final message at the L.A. Times