Science Hunters: Zharkov, 23 tons, a mammoth in a helicopter

In this nineteenth episode of Science Hunters, Embarks on a historic scientific expedition to Siberia, with a mammoth trapped in permafrost for 20,000 years.

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Mammoths are symbolic animals from prehistoric times. These giant snakes walked Ter Between -4 million years (the oldest known survivor) and -15,000 years, at the end of the past ice Age. Although they are often seen as the ancestors of today’s elephants, they are, in fact, their cousins. The Woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigeniusIt is definitely most famous to the general public and researchers and with good reason, they are Fossils It has been recognized and analyzed since the eighteenth centurye century.

This episode from Science Hunters Invites you to meet very comfortably in your sofa, Mr. Mammoth Sophie in the far north of Siberia. There, mammoth remains flow with the ground and are especially well preserved by the cold. Most of the time, only their fangs escape from the ground. This is the case of Yarkov, a woolly mammoth discovered by Bedouins in the area. The story might have ended there, but the discovery reached the association president’s ears Polar circle Expedition, Bertrand Puijs, who decides the amazing fate of a prehistoric animal.

Kharkov mammoth

The state of Zarkov is unique, the mammoth died standing and stayed that way for 20,000 years, trapped in frozen ground. Faced with this unique specimen, Bertrand Buiges and Yves CobinsHe, who was then a paleontologist at the Collège de France, decided to extract the mammoths in one piece.

But now, cutting the frozen ground and lifting a block weighing several tons is no easy task! Scientists will have to confront the weather Hostile from Siberia before reaching their goal! This episode from Science Hunters He invites you to relive all the adventures of this scientific adventure that sparked media suspense at the end of the nineties.

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you welcome in Science Hunters, A podcast produced by Futura. I’m Julie, your time guide. Put on your gloves and take your scarf, in this episode, I take you to the icy lands of Siberia, along with scientists who have given themselves a miraculous mission. Extract the ground mouse from the frozen ground. Listen Science HuntersIf you like this podcast, feel free to support us by sharing it on social networks And by leaving us a note on the distribution platforms.

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In Siberia there is a mythical animal. Lives in the tales and legends of Dolgan, a nomadic people of eastern Siberia. Ground rats, whose name suggests live underground, dig long halls like moles. No one doubts their existence, but as they near their death, the earth mice seek to restore the surface to breathe more easily. They dig the ground to get their tusks out of their underground tunnels. Unfortunately, the cold and lack of oxygen get better before they even reach the surface. It is then that the earth mice reveal their existence to the men, forever imprisoned in the frozen ground that once served as a home. Siberian, tusks, … this legend may remind you of another animal that has nothing to do with mice or moles. And with good reason, Dulgan’s legendary animal is none other than mammoth. Their land is actually located on the largest mammoth cemetery known to scientists.

1997. It’s spring in Siberia, but in this world of ice and snow, nothe trees In Venus, and birds do not chirp, the ground remains permanently frozen in jelly. A caravan appears from a dream far away. Advance about ten small houses on skis in one file. Each team is drawn by ten Ren. It is the Dolgane family that is looking for a more welcoming pasture for their flock. They carry their little hut, it is called PackagesWith them on every trip.

Life is tough in this region, but Dolgan lives thanks to reindeer herds and making carved objects out of mammoth tusks. These Bedouins meet them regularly during their journey. Moreover, the young head of this family, Kostya Zharkov, discovers something far from white. The convoy is asked to stop. Before them, curved fangs of about a meter long protruded from the ground, as if they were planted there in the middle of nowhere. There are still some reddish brown hairs at their base.

The discovery is not out of the ordinary and should pay offsilver For the family, but Kostya Zharkov decided otherwise. Temir’s reserve manager warns of the presence of mammoths. According to him, the earth is still completely underground. This decision marked the starting point of an extraordinary scientific expedition, led by Yves Cobaines, an ancient anthropologist at the Collège de France, and Bertrand Puig, president of the Circles Poller Expedition. Mammoths’ journey begins.

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It was Bertrand Puig who knew there were mammoths first. He immediately raises donations to fund the expedition and asks Yves Coppens to be the scientific director. In theAutumn In 1998, the team went to the far north of Siberia, 6,000 kilometers from Moscow, to the side of a mammoth bed. Surveys radio It allows the animal to be located in its coffin made of mud and earth: it is clear that it died standing. Then Yves Cobins came up with a surprising idea. Instead of taking out the mammoth itself, he suggests cutting a lump of dirt all over to keep it in the soil it imprisons it.

In fact, this mammoth, named Jarkov in honor of Dolgane who discovered it, is not the first mammoth discovered by scientists. These prehistoric snake bones have been known since the 18th century. But extract them from Permafrost, With brutal, sometimes brutal methods, alternating freezing and thawing severely damages the residue.

« Instead of sending pieces of these animals, dried or decomposed, to foreign laboratories, we had an idea to keep them on site in good condition, and bring the researchers to Khatanga. », Yves Coppens would later outline in an interview.

We mark the area to know where to cut without the risk of damaging the mammoth. A year later, in 1999, mission scholars from around the world set up their base camp at Tundra Siberia. They know it: the task promises to be arduous! And the weather forecast Play against them. a Storm He wakes up and nothing stops him Vent Who is crying out ceaselessly. The temperature becomes freezing, at boundaries resistance From the human body: -40 ° C. More than 5 weeks of diligent effort is needed, using a jackhammer in the middle in the Siberian cold to extract a block of earth 3 meters by 2 meters long.air.

But the hardest part is yet to come: raising the mammoth’s body helicopter To Khainaja, the provincial capital, 250 kilometers. For this mission, an MI-26 helicopter arrives at the site, one of the most powerful man-made helicopters ever built. It can carry a maximum load of 20 tons. With 23 tons, Zharkov will push it to its limits. The first few minutes are tense. The helicopter is struggling to take off and its precious payload is dangerously high in the air. On the ground, all those who worked to cut the block watch it go with pain stuck in the heart. He finally joined Khatanga without incident in October 1999.

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It is the first mammoth to be mined without breaking the cold chain. Obviously, it attracts all scientists in the world interested in prehistoric animals. In the year 2000, parts of his body were thawed to remove hair and tissue that had remained intact for several thousand years. Then Zharkov’s life was revealed to us. It is the male woolly mammoth that lived 20,380 years ago. He passed away at the age of 42, when he was in good health. Due to his location in the rock and its composition, Yarkov may have died when he fell into a crack. Mud covered his body soon after and froze protected him from the vagaries of the weather.

Zharkov is still buried in Khatanga today. Earth mass is preserved in a cave dug inside a cliff where the temperature is constantly – 15 ° C. He’s still there, ready to reveal his most intimate secrets to scientists. These prehistoric holes are fueling even the most insane aspirations of scientists. With the Woolly Mammoth Revival Project, the Harvard team wants to revive the mammoth, not by cloning But using CRISPR-Cas technology. The principle is cuttingADN Mammoth and affix it to an Asian elephant. The project was supposed to be completed in 2019, but since then, no mammoths have been sighted on the AUC campus.

Thank you for listening Science Hunters. The music for this episode was composed by Patricia Chailda. To text and narration: Julie Kern. If you value our work please do not hesitate to leave a comment and five stars On distribution platforms to support us and improve our visibility. You can also subscribe to Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Podcast to never miss an episode. As for me, I’ll meet you soon for a future time expedition, in Science Hunters. Bye !

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