At nearly 2,800 feet in length, it’s one of the largest dams ever built. Construction began way back in the 1970′s, and if four decades seems an excessively long time to spend on an infrastructure project, you might want to cut the work crew some slack in light of the fact that they’re all beavers.
The dam, located in Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park situated in a very remote area of the province near the border with Northwest Territories, is not simply remarkable for being visible from space. Rather, were it not to have been captured by satellite image and rendered visible through Google Earth, we might not have had any clue about this remarkable feat in rodent civil engineering.
As MSNBC reports, ecologist Jean Thie was reviewing Google Earth and NASA satellite data as part of an investigation of permafrost loss in the area when he spotted the feature and concluded that it was the work of beavers in spite of the surprising scale of it. Thie actually made the discovery back in 2007, and the surprising find only now is receiving widespread media attention thanks to an intrepid British journalist who caught mention of the unusual find on a blog post.
Based on review of historical aerial photography, park rangers estimate that the beavers got to work on the dam at some point in the 1970s. Flyovers conducted in this area of the park since the 2007 Google Earth discovery confirm the existence, scale and location of the beaver dam, but no one has yet been able to explore the dam up close. Because of the terrain (it’s remote, it’s tree-covered, and it’s swampy to boot) there is no good nearby place to land a small plane and allow direct and up-close investigation of the beavers’ accomplishment.