link to Home Page

icon Flash Frozen

Frozen Mammoth To Be Unearthed In Russia
By Bas den Hond, Rotterdam, 5-22-99

The carcass of a woolly mammoth, kept out of rot's way for 20,000 years in the frozen ground of northern Siberia, will be excavated this autumn. The Jarkov mammoth, named for the family that discovered it, will be the first mammoth ever to be kept frozen as it's lifted out of its grave. It will be stored in an underground cave at minus twelve degrees centigrade.

Raising the Mammoth
Discovery Channel, Mar 12, 2000

Last October, amid the bitterness of the Siberian tundra, the carcass of a male woolly mammoth was lifted out of the ground where it had been frozen for more than 23,000 years. Soon scientists hope to begin searching that long-dead body for clues of an ancient world. The effort of the team led by French explorer Bernard Buigues to dig out the frozen block of earth containing the mammoth, then carry it almost 300 kilometers by a giant helicopter, was only a first step. After spending the winter above ground, the huge chunk of tundra and mammoth will soon be moved inside an ice cave in Khatanga, Siberia. There, a group of scientists will slowly begin thawing small sections of the animal and permafrost to look back into the world in which mammoths lived.

Intact Mammoth to be Carved from Siberian Tundra
Reuters, July 23, 1999

An adult woolly mammoth mummified 23,000 years ago under Siberia's frozen tundra will be dug out of the permafrost and may one day be cloned, an international team of scientists said on Thursday. In a scenario worthy of the fictional, cloned dinosaurs in the "Jurassic Park" movies, French explorer Bernard Buigues said the intact soft tissues and the hair of the Jarkov mammoth held out the possibility of recovering intact DNA. "It will be interesting to know the habits of this animal and what he was doing in this place that was a very difficult place to live," Buigues said in a teleconference with reporters from southwestern South Dakota, a center for fossil finds. "In the pictures we have, you see all the kinds of hair that the mammoth has. The colour is intact," said Buigues, who is affiliated with the National History Museum of France. "The smell of the skin is also there."

Most likely, any attempt to clone the extinct woolly mammoth - an example of one of the six or seven known species of mammoth that roamed the Earth through the Pleistocene era - would be done by using a genetically similar Asian elephant as the gestating mother, said Larry Ageneroad, a geology professor at the University of Northern Arizona, who will join the team in Russia in September. The Jarkov mammoth, named for the local tribesmen who discovered the submerged beast and who previously removed its valuable tusks, is a male who died at age 47, Buigues said. The exposed head has decomposed, but the body remains intact under the permafrost, or permanently frozen tundra. The six-week excavation project, to be filmed by the Discovery Channel for broadcast in March 2000, will begin in September as temperatures cool and will entail digging out a 33-ton block of permafrost containing the mammoth's body. The block will be flown by Russia's largest helicopter to the ice caves in Khatanga, Siberia, where a subfreezing laboratory will be fashioned for scientists.

This adult specimen is different from others found in Siberia and elsewhere because scientists will be able to examine grass and other flora that were preserved with it, and possibly recover organs and even sperm. Many of the plants mammoths were known to eat on the mountainous steppes of what is now the North American Rocky Mountains and Siberia are known to still exist, but the mystery of the mammoth's extinction persists, the scientists said. "In general, we know a lot about the woolly mammoth from (mostly skeletal) specimens found in France, Spain and Russia," said Dick Mol, another member of the team who is affiliated with the Natuurmuseum in the Netherlands. "If we can find more material of the woolly mammoth, including soft parts such as the ears and the tail, we can learn much more," he said.