As he stood on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, he wondered how such a magical place could even exist. It seemed geographically impossible.
He was surrounded by the freezing snow and ice as he looked out on the burning tropical planes of Africa. But what he’d soon discover would challenge the beliefs of the entire world.
Geologist Lonnie Thompson from Ohio State University went on a mission to discover why the snow cover and glacier atop Mount Kilimanjaro had been shrinking. They knew climate change was involved but they wanted to be sure nothing else was looming under the surface.
It was a hefty mission, and one that would rewrite the course of history.
Thompson camped for about a month on the slopes of Kilimanjaro at an altitude of 19,300 feet in order to complete his mission. He needed to drill deep into the glacier and retrieve samples of cylindrical ice cores.
These ice cores varied from 30 to 170 feet deep. But the most challenging part of the mission was something Thompson never saw coming.
To drill into the mountain and retrieve the ice cores meant that Thomspon needed permission from the Tanzanian government to bring his team and all of their equipment up there.
It took Thompson months to acquire all of the 25 different permissions from a number of different Tanzanian agencies to grant him access. Once his team was given the greenlight, it took more than 92 porters to get their equipment to the drilling site on top of the mountain.
The drilling site was located on the snowy top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Thompson remembered feeling like he was living in some sort of hyper-realistic paradoxical dream.
The air was crisp and cold. His exposed skin turned numb under the freezing atmosphere. The sky was a perfect shade of blue while the sun shined and he looked out on the tropical and burnt planes of Tanzania. He wondered how such a place could exist.
For Thompson, it felt like the mountain was drenched in mystery but he’d never have imagined that he’d find something that proved him right.
Thompson and his team of researchers drilled six ice cores from Kilimanjaro’s ice cap. They were focused on determining the causes of the mountain’s quickly disappearing frozen water reserves.
Weather conditions were relatively calm as they dispatched their machinery and drilled six holes. Thompson briefly examined the ice samples that his team pulled from the glacier.
At first glance, everything appeared to look as he would expect. He was one step closer to understanding the changes in the mountain. But what he didn’t realize was that he was about to discover something else entirely that would verify a story from the Book of Genesis.
Thompson carefully cut the samples into measured test sizes and placed them in labeled temperature-controlled containers to bring back to the lab for examination.
Thompson and his team worked on the samples and their hypothesis tirelessly before publishing their findings two years later that detailed the effect of climate change on the mountain but they also published the shocking discovery of something else.
The ice cores not only offered evidence of the present effects of climate change but also offered the unexpected evidence of a drought in Africa that started about 8,300 years ago which persisted for an astonishing 500 years.
Thompson speaks of how he excitedly worked as this new information unfolded right before his eyes. But that wasn’t all.
The ice also showed another drought that followed the previous and took place around 5,200 years ago. “We believe that this represents a time when the lakes of Africa were drying up,” Thompson said.
Yet, what was truly astonishing was finding yet another drought in the markings of the ice that had biblical significance.
The third drought that Thompson and his team identified happened about 4,000 years ago and lasted for around 300 years.
The evidence of this drought existing is significant as it seemingly ties in with the story of Joseph that is recorded in the biblical book, the Book of Genesis. But does the evidence really line up with the story?
What’s notable here is that this tale is not only found in the Christian Bible but it’s also found in the Islamic Qur’an and the Jewish Torah.
In the tale of Joseph which is told in chapters 37 to 50 in the Book of Genesis, he possess the skill to interpret dreams after he’s sent into slavery in Egypt by his brothers who were jealous of his relationship with his father.
Joseph was the 11th son of his father, Jacob who took a particular liking to him. He was his father’s favorite, much to the hatred of his brothers.
His brothers conspired against Joseph and rid him of their family, faking his death to his father and condemning him to a life of slavery in Egypt. But it was there that the evidence Thomspon found may prove that this story may not be just a story afterall…
After Potiphar’s wife’s advances were rejected by Joseph, she imprisoned him. There, he began to display his skills as a dream interpreter. Once his predictions repeated to prove true, the Pharaoh himself asked Joseph to interpret his wild dreams that his council couldn’t figure out.
He dreamt of seven emaciated cattle eating seven well-fed cows and seven wilted ears of corn eating seven healthy ears of grain. The prediction?
Joseph enlightened the pharaoh that his dreams were a prediction of Egypt enjoying seven years of plenty before suffering seven years more of famine.
Joseph was appointed to be his vizier – a senior advisor and official. The tale continued to see the realization of Joseph’s prediction and it’s this event that correlates with Thompson’s findings on Mount Kilimanjaro.
The drought recorded in the Book of Genesis that scholars have claimed took place around 3,600 to 3,700 years ago was always thought to be a work of fiction.
As with most things in the bible, it’s difficult, if not impossible to prove the stories told. But this story matches closely with findings in the ice core of the drought that happened approx. 4,000 years ago spanning 300 years.
It was a massive drought that put the power of the Pharaohs at great risk. Back then, parts of the Sahara desert had been fertile land, the exact opposite of the hostile land we know it to be today.
Perhaps it’s possible that the Old Testament had woven in verifiable facts from thousands of years ago into its ornamented tales.
Although there is an alignment between the bible and science in this case, it’s also worth noting that the similarities end there.
The Book Of Genesis states that the world was created 6,000 years ago. But of course, Thompson and his team, along with countless other geologists, have dated ice samples and rocks far, far beyond that.
Thompson continued to work on countless environmental projects to highlight problem locations around the world, in particular, problem mountains around the world that are priority areas for recovery from climate change.
He has targeted 13 locations around the world but is pessimistic about getting to them to retrieve ice cores before they dwindle like Mount Kilimanjaro. And what was his take on the bible reference?
Thompson found the correlation interesting and mentioned that perhaps it was a fragment of fact within the story.
However, having dedicated his life to science, Thompson is a science guy who believes in facts and reason to base his beliefs. What about you?