What You Missed: Death Valley Fatalities Continue to Rise
Another fatality in Death Valley, ancient ski found in Norway, and Heather Hansman’s book release
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California’s hottest summer on record has also been one of the deadliest.
On Sunday, November 7, rangers in Death Valley National Park found the body of a 27-year-old woman approximately 1.5 miles from the popular Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes trailhead. According to officials, the woman and her aunt had been hiking on the trail the previous morning and split up at 11 A.M. The older woman returned to the car while the younger woman kept going. Temperatures rose into the mid-eighties that day—far lower than the extreme heat the area experiences during the summer.
At 5 P.M., with her niece yet to return, the aunt contacted park rangers. Officials searched into the night, eventually finding the woman’s body at 9 A.M. in a section of flats beyond the dunes. They have yet to release the woman’s identification or her cause of death.
This is the sixth fatality in Death Valley this year: two visitors died after falling from cliffs and three others perished while hiking. Officials believe extreme heat played a role in the latter deaths, and a park spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle that the park usually experiences one or two heat-related fatalities each year.
Deadly temperatures have taken center stage in California this year after a record-breaking heat wave led to a spate of fatalities across the state. An experienced runner collapsed and died outside Pleasanton in August after temperatures soared above 100 degrees. In September, crews discovered the body of a hiker in Joshua Tree National Park the day after heat surpassed to 120 degrees. Then, in October, officials in Mariposa County announced that hyperthermia and dehydration were to blame in the mysterious death of Jonathan Gerrish, 45, his wife Ellen Chung, 31, and their one-year-old daughter, Aurelia, on a trail in Sierra National Forest.
Camilo Mora, a professor at the University of Hawaii and an expert in deadly heat, told Livia Albeck-Ripka of The New York Times that outdoor enthusiasts need to expect and adapt to extreme conditions.
“That’s the thing with climate change, it can turn oversights into tragedies,” Mora said. “This can kill anybody.”
Ancient ski found in Norway
Archaeologists in Norway have unearthed the missing mate to a 1,300-year-old ski discovered in 2014. Now researchers believe they have the world’s best-preserved pair of ancient skis, which date back to approximately 750 A.D.
In September archaeologists saw the ski poking out of the ice on the slopes of Mount Digervarden, near the area where the original ski was discovered. Severe weather thwarted attempts to recover the ski for several days, before a team was able to remove it from the ice on September 26 with a video crew that documented the recovery effort.
The skis are remarkably preserved, with the second ski showing a raised foothold and lash points for heel bindings. These technological advancements mean the ancient owner was likely able to power the skis uphill and not just coast on flat or downhill terrain. Archaeologists even noticed signs that the skis had been repaired at one point.
Climate change is rapidly melting the ice on Norway’s glaciers, and the melt has released multiple artifacts from ancient people who inhabited the area before the Vikings.
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