NOVA Online
Site Map

Kerchief Mallory's handkerchief.
Unanswered Questions
Part 2 | Back to Part 1

And there are still more clues. Through a note written to Noel Odell on the day before his summit climb, Mallory indicated that he intended to leave his high camp in the morning and climb with two bottles of oxygen. This year, on their way down from their summit attempt, having turned around at the base of the Second Step, Jake Norton and Tap Richards found an oxygen bottle from 1924 tucked underneath a large boulder on the Northeast Ridge, confirming a previous sighting by Eric Simonson. "The bottle is clearly from 1924," said our resident Everest researcher Jochen Hemmleb at Advance Base Camp when the climbers returned from Camp VI, and Richards pulled the old oxygen bottle from his pack. "This has the characteristic long cylinder of the 1924 models and has a rounded bottom." What more can the oxygen bottle and the location where Mallory stashed it tell us about his ascent?

Tube Tube of zinc oxide; tin of beef lozenges.

In the upcoming weeks, while editing our documentary, we will attempt—with the help of Hemmleb, a forensics expert, Everest historian Audrey Salkeld, and the climbers—to piece together the many possible scenarios of Mallory and Irvine's last day on Mount Everest. By determining, for example, the flow rate of Mallory's oxygen bottle, we can figure out when he may have run out of his last oxygen and discarded his second empty bottle, leaving him on a summit attempt without any back-up oxygen. By analyzing the photographs taken of Mallory's remains, a forensic pathologist may be able to reconstruct Mallory's final moments and the exact cause of his death. There may be something in the tin of beef lozenges or the tube of zinc oxide that could reveal more about the time of day that Mallory fell. Did the altimeter give accurate readings and is there a way to determine its highest rendering? Is there a small particle of rope left on the blade of the pocket knife to indicate that Mallory cut himself free from Irvine? After 75 years, and with the help of science and forensics, it is possible that a clue hidden in the artifacts may reveal what our heroes could never tell us - whether they were the first to reach the highest point on Earth.

Miscellaneous items Other artifacts found with Mallory.

In Kathmandu, the air is thick with anticipation of the announcement of our find. Artifacts will be unveiled to the press for the first time, and our team will soon separate, return home, and begin to tell accounts of Mallory's story in our own ways. The mystery may be unsolved, but the image of Mallory's valiant effort to be the first to stand on the summit of Everest is clear. "The telegram announcing our success, if we succeed, will precede this letter, I suppose: but it will mention no names," Mallory wrote on April 19, 1924, in one of his last letters to his wife, Ruth. "How you will hope that I was one of the conquerors! And I don't think you will be disappointed."

Stay tuned for the NOVA program on this story, slated to be broadcast in January. For those of you following this expedition from the United Kingdom, the BBC will also be broadcasting a program this fall.

Unanswered Questions (May 25, 1999)
Forty-Eight Yaks (May 21, 1999)
On Top of the World (May 17, 1999)
Summit Team Moves Higher (May 16, 1999)
Still at Camp V (May 15, 1999)
Snow Bound (May 14, 1999)
Outsmarting the Weather (May 13, 1999)
Last Trip Up (May 12, 1999)
Up to ABC/The Rescue (May 11, 1999)
The Image of Mallory (May 8, 1999)
In Extremis (May 7, 1999)
Pieces of the Puzzle (May 6, 1999)
Dearest George (May 5, 1999)
Mallory's Discoverers Return (May 4, 1999)
Mallory Reported Found (May 3, 1999)
Waiting in Silence (May 1, 1999)
Up to the Search Site (April 30, 1999)
To the North Col (April 29, 1999)
Waiting out the Wind (April 28, 1999)
Search About to Begin (April 25, 1999)
Pitching a 1933 Tent (April 23, 1999)
Early Camp Found at 21,750 Feet on Everest (April 20, 1999)
Up to Base Camp (April 23, 1999)

Photos: (1-2,4-6) Thom Pollard; (3) Liesl Clark.
Members of the press: click here for NOVA/PBS ONLINE "Lost on Everest" media relations contacts.

Lost on Everest | High Exposure | Climb | History & Culture | Earth, Wind, & Ice
E-mail | Previous Expeditions | Resources | Site Map | Everest Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site