The hammer that wouldn’t get lost
In 2010, I was on my first research trip to visit Antarctica’s Skaar Ridge, a 2-mile-long stretch of rock and fossils near the side of a mountain. It can be accessed only via helicopter, so it doesn’t see much foot traffic. The last research team to visit did so back in 1990, and they had left behind one unfortunate casualty: my colleague Professor N. Rubén Cúneo’s hammer.
We joked about rescuing our fellow scientist’s old tool, but the odds of finding it were incredibly slim. A hunk of metal and wood could certainly survive a couple of decades in that barren, frozen landscape, but Skaar Ridge is a big place, and wind constantly blows the snow around in Antarctica. There’s a reason it got lost in the first place.
You can imagine our surprise when just two days in, we spotted a handle poking out of the snow. How were we certain that it was Cúneo’s, you ask? Its head was painted baby blue. The 2010 expedition carried only hammers painted fluorescent pink, to make them easier to spot if and when we dropped them into the snow. We’d learned our lesson about baby-blue hammers back in 1990.