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Set 6, posted May 11, 1999
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Question:


Thumbnail of postcard Postcard from the 1924 Mt. Everest Expedition.
See full-size images of card (130K)

I have a post card sent to my uncle from the 1924 Mt. Everest expedition dispatched by postal runner to India and posted in Calcutta on October 10, 1924. It is signed "best wishes J.B.L. Noel. Captain." and has a photo of the mountain and an expedition stamp. Can anyone tell me more about these cards—e.g. were they sent to friends or to anyone requesting them, how many were sent, and am I correct assuming this was Mallory's last expedition?

Thank You.

dave pennack
Bridgwater, Somerset, UK



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

It could be that Noel stayed on longer, hence the October 10 date. Apparently the expedition did produce a set of cards like these for sale. But this one was clearly a personal one. We don't know how many were sent from the expedition. And yes, this was Mallory's last expedition.



Question:

On what date will the expedition for Mallory's camera take place? Will it be on TV, the Web, or on the radio?

Brad Mottishaw
Sandy, UT



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The expedition to search for the camera is taking place now. We are at Advance Base Camp at 21,300 feet, and the team will head higher to continue their search and summit attempt in the upcoming days. The NOVA program will appear on PBS this fall or winter. Check your local listings.



Question:

Dear Team,
Congratulations. As pathologists we would be very interested to know how preserved the body of Mallory is. How do you define "well-preserved?" Can you put a picture on the net? 70+ years in those conditions is of interest to us for technical reasons. We are going to Bear Island on an expedition to recover a missing Australian crewed submarine from World War II. Any information you can provide will be gratefully acknowledged.

I don't know why I want to know this—but please could you tell me what kind of watch he was wearing and what the time was?

Simon C & Lidija M
Melbourne



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The body is not exactly mummified. His hands look like they were frostbitten before he died. But it is remarkable what the "climate"did at 27,000 feet to preserve Mallory's body. Exposed skin was bleached white, the body was frozen with a little elasticity still within the tissue. The tissue of the body was clearly frozen.



Question:

Dear Liesl and team,
How exciting it is to follow your progress! I was just wondering, what would you do if you found Mallory's camera? Wouldn't the film be frozen, and unable to be processed?

I am 12 years old, and share a great interest in climbing. Liesl, I read about your mission in the Hamilton Wenham Chronicle, and wanted to e-mail you from your hometown. I wish you good luck in the rest of your journey.

Thanks!

John Kacoyanis
Wenham, MA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We have been in touch with Kodak and they feel that they can process the film if it remains frozen from the time it leaves the mountain to the time it reaches the lab. They have contributed an article on our Web site.

Thanks for your support.



Question:

I understand that the major question is whether Mallory or Irvine reached the summit. I was wondering if it was known whether they planned to plant a flag when they reached the summit. If so, then the flag should either be found on the climbers or it could be inferred that they planted it on the summit. I would assume that they would protect the flag during the climb, so if it is missing, that would be significant.

Helene Schmidt
Newark, DE



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

There is nothing in Mallory's pockets that would directly indicate a successful summit attempt. We did not find a flag, so perhaps he planted one there.



Question:

Hello Team,
I read (or actually listened to on tape) with great interest the book Into Thin Air. Before the book, I had not given much thought to Mt. Everest. I remain fascinated that people continue to climb the mountain on a yearly basis.

If this time of the year is so very dangerous weather wise, is there not another time that would be better for climbing? When a person dies on the mountain and their body is left there, do they decay or are they frozen? How many different approaches are there to the summit? Which is the most difficult and which is the easiest and why?

I am also interested to know if this expedition is being filmed for television. Please climb safely and continue to tell us what you have learned.

Godspeed.

Angel Cooper
Staunton, VA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The weather is not particularly dangerous this year—just windy, which it usually is on this side. When a person dies on Everest their body remains frozen. By our estimations, there are 15 routes on Everest. The southeast ridge route is touted as the easiest. It is well developed, has a lot of snow and has easy climbing up high. The hardest route is probably the West Ridge direct as it is very hard climbing on the summit day. The Kangshung Face is the most dangerous because of avalanches. This expedition is being filmed for television. Documentaries will appear on both NOVA and the BBC this fall or winter.



Question:

Congratulations on a magnificent accomplishment. I feel the same excitement as when the Titanic was found, as when the first close-up pictures of the outer planets by the Voyager spacecraft. You have accomplished something truly wonder-filled. My question is, how do you know that Irvine also fell to his death with Mallory? An earlier expedition theorized that Irvine had separated from Mallory and returned to high camp, and had fallen separately, while Mallory trudged on. What evidence have you seen to substantiate that Irvine was with Mallory at the moment of the fall? Again, congratulations, and thank you, for your brilliant efforts.

Dennis Coates
Southworth, Washington



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The information on exactly what happened to Mallory and Irvine is still very sketchy for us. Finding Irvine could solve a lot for us.



Question:

I have a child-like curiosity regarding the finding of Mallory. I have a few questions maybe you could answer: Will we get to see pictures of the body? What will be done with the corpse? I read somewhere that the torso was intact. Does this mean that part of the body is missing? Please point me in any direction so that I may find more up close info on this exciting subject.

Brian Dover
Shreveport, LA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

You ask what will be done with Mallory's body. It will remain where it is, now in a shallow rock grave at 27,000 feet. For more information, we will try to continue to report thoroughly on this subject, but several books will be coming out. We will also be airing a NOVA documentary on PBS this fall or winter.



Question:

I am very impressed with Mallory's history of adventure and bravery. Was Mallory ever on any Antarctic expeditions? I somehow thought that he traveled with Shackleton on the South Pole expedition in 1914. Can you help? If true, the (unsuccessful) transantarctic expedition would have toughened him up for the climb up Everest.

Jonathan Fine
Tustin Ranch, CA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Mallory was not on any Antarctic expeditions. He went from the Alps directly to the Himalayas.



Question:

Aren't most summit attempts on Everest made in early to mid May, and if so then why did Mallory-Irvine make their attempt in June? Wouldn't that be the beginning of the monsoon season? What are the conditions like on Everest in the out-of-climbing season?

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

In the 1920s, the ideal timing for the climbing season wasn't known, as the teams were still trying to find this out. In 1924, as events would have it, the team was late.



Question:

I am curious about casual references to finding bodies on the mountain. I realize they are there to stay. How many people have lost their lives on Everest? Is anything done when a body is encountered? Surely you have encountered the bodies of someone you knew; that has to be a truly unique experience. Can you cover them (do you want to?), do you put up any sort of marker, make a note on a map, bring small possessions back for their families?

It is all so sad. In your opinion, do you think Mallory and Irvine fell together? The implication is that they were tethered together.

melinda
Leesburg, VA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We think the death toll on Everest is over 150 out of over 1000 successful ascents. Seeing bodies on the route is difficult for all climbers.



Question:

Was it your assessment from seeing Mallory's body that he died instantly, i.e. on impact from the fall? I'm wondering this because one of the posts mentioned that his hands were grasping the rock as if he had tried to move. Thanks.

Phil Jones
Ottawa, Ontario



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We are unclear as to whether Mallory died instantly. The climbers have referred to Mallory's position as indicating that he fought for his life to the very end.



Question:

My friend ran up to me excitedly at work on Monday and said, "Did you hear they found Mallory's body on Everest?!" Up until then I didn't even know that there was a serious search on to find him. About four years ago I read the book First On Everest by Tom Holzel and Audrey Salkeld. This is the best account I have ever found on the subject of George Leigh Mallory and Andrew Irvine. So just to refresh my memory I went to the library and checked out the same book that afternoon. I am in the middle of it now and I was wondering if this great account of the story had any influence on this expedition and if, in fact, Tom Holzel himself has anything to do with this search. I understand that he has long held a fascination with the subject. Anyway, good luck, and I hope the camera turns up! Boy, what a treat it would be to see a picture of Mallory on the summit in '24!!

Karl
Las Vegas, NV



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Audrey Salkeld, who co-wrote The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine with Tom Holzel, is a consultant on both our film and Web site. Tom Holzel is also actively in touch with us.



Question:

We have a question about a German climber who is missing since May 8th (1997) at the North-east-ridge. His name is Peter Kowalzik and he was last seen at the Second Step at 13.00 (Chinese time), when he climbed up. He was seen from a French expedition (Antoine de Choudens). He went without oxygen.

We don't know anything about his clothing, but he had a down overall and his shoes are from Onesport (model Everest). He's about 5' 6". Have you seen something that could help us to know what happened to him?

Thank you very much.

Martin Reinicke
Freiburg, Germany



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We are sorry about the loss of Peter Kowalzik. On our search for Mallory we did not find anyone who fits your description.



Question:

My grandson Stephen Ferroni will be five years old on May 10, 1999. Could you send him "Happy Birthday" to his e-mail in Florence, Italy. He would really go wild if you did this. So would I. Thank you and good luck on the mountain.

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

From the entire Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition, all team members wish Stephen Ferroni a happy birthday from inside our dining tent, Advance Base Camp 21,300 feet.



Question:

What an amazing experience it must be. Being a photographer, I was wondering what cameras you use and how are they holding up to the conditions? I've been following your trip for the last few days and will continue to do so. Good luck from down under.

Steve Baker
Brisbane, Australia



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We are shooting on super 16mm (an Aaton) up to the North Col and have digital video cameras for the climbing beyond.



Question:

I am looking for Ned Johnson. Rumor has it he is involved in this expedition. I have sailed with him in the past and am very excited to hear of his possible participation. Regardless of this, good luck to all of you, take care, climb safely.

Dan Goldthwait
Los Angles, CA



Response from Ned Johnston, expedition cameraman:

Hi Dan.



Question:

I have read with great interest about the history of the campsites on Everest. The Dane Klaus Becker-Larsen made an unauthorized attempt from the north side in 1951. Is there any of the findings that dates back to this early expedition?

Becker-Larsen mentions, some of the old English campsites in his book, The Everest Challenge (perhaps only published in Danish).

Kind Regards,

Anders Strange Nielsen
Horsholm, Denmark



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We have found artifacts from old British campsites from 1933, but nothing from 1951.



Question:

After you have acclimatized, I understand your blood contains more red blood cells. Do you feel noticeably fitter or stronger or more "oxygenated" when returning to sea level? Would sportsmen who depend greatly on the level of oxygenation of their bodies, for example a top sprinter, or a breath-hold diver, benefit by being acclimatized to high altitude, and then competing at sea level? Can you hold your breath for longer after you have returned?

Keep up the great effort - thanks on behalf of lots of us!

Jonathan Stoner
Cape Town, South Africa



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Many athletes train at moderate altitude. But at this elevation, 21,300 feet, you deteriorate faster than you acclimatize. Some of us notice feeling stronger at sea level after returning from elevation. Nevertheless, long expeditions do take their toll.



Question:

I imagine that you receive numerous comments from Everest mavens, and that not all of them are helpful or worth the time taken to read them; and I fear that this may rank among them. I ask your pardon in advance.

For a course I teach on the history of mountaineering, I have had occasion to read through much of the literature, and in order to get some things straight, I spoke with Tom Holzel and Audrey Salkeld. She seemed to indicate to me that Noel Odell did not have a clear recollection of where he saw the two climbers, whether below the second or "third" step. I understand the argument that the second step is a challenge probably beyond Mallory and Irvine towards the end of a trying afternoon, but I am puzzled by a remark in one of the e-mails published on this site indicating, on the basis of personal inspection of the point at which Odell sighted the climbers, that they were by the "third" step.

My interest is piqued by the placement of the ice axe and the indication that, if Odell did see them below the second or near the "third" step, the axe was lost on the way down from their high point for the day. I base this comment on a recollection of remarks in Holzel and Salkeld's book but, more recently, upon a re-examination of the photographs showing (roughly) where the axe was picked up (by Wager?) and the remarks in Smythe's "Camp Six." Of course, should it be the case that the axe was dropped on the return, this has no bearing on the actual height Mallory and Irvine attained.

I take it that you are an agnostic, that is, that you doubt that the pair reached the summit; and I suspect you are right, although the romantic in me wishes otherwise. My question is whether there is a clear understanding of the actual difficulties of the second step. Obviously, the presence or absence of recent snow changes the equation, but I do not know of a published account that describes the situation (other than remarking that use was made of the Chinese ladder). I can make little out of the existing photographs, even those of the Catalan expedition (which I think are among the best that I have seen). What do you think?

My father once climbed with Heinrich Harrer and there has been a fascination in our family with the pre-war Everest saga for, well, 70 years and more. I very much appreciated your kind words on the News Hour last night about the courage and endurance of these early climbers. I make a point, in teaching, of pointing out just how difficult their task was. Thank you!

If you have found this too elementary or long-winded, please accept my permission to ignore this message!

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Stay tuned as Conrad Anker tries to free climb the Second Step, assessing its feasibility for a team of two in 1924. We will try to film this ascent so you can have a close look at the terrain and difficulties offered there.



Question:

Is there ever a point during the month-long climb where you actually feel warm, well fed and not exhausted? If you were within a few hundred yards of the top of the mountain...is it still considered a successful summit? Any ideas on what happened to Andy Harris? We are all praying for your safe return here in Colorado!

Wendy C.
Denver, CO



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Yes, there some moments at Base Camp, tucked deep inside a sleeping bag, when one does feel warm and rested.



Question:

I was reading other e-mails that were sent to you and one of them was about bringing the bodies down from the mountain if you did find them. You said that it would be too hard to bring them down. I can understand that it would be very dangerous to try to bring them down, but are you saying that those bodies would stay up there forever? Is that the plan?

toby
Shawano, WI



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Yes, there is no plan to remove bodies. It is far too difficult.



Question:

This search on Everest for the true story of what happened to Mallory and Irvine is very exciting. Ever since reading Tom and Audrey's book on the mystery of Mallory and Irvine, I've been caught up by it. Your post of May 6 makes an argument that Mallory and Irvine were very close to the top when Noel Odell saw them. One matter I can't figure out is this: if Mallory got up the Second Step, then pulled Irvine up, how did they get down? The 1960 Chinese expedition found no rope on the Step.

Phil Jones
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

If Mallory and Irvine had rappelled the Second Step they would have retrieved their rope. But this question of how they got down is very interesting to us, and Conrad Anker will do his best to assess this.



Question:

I am confused about the body reported found years ago by the Chinese. Is this body still "unaccounted for" in the present search? Your earlier comments about clothing that fell apart in the Chinese fellow's hand, and now face up with "peck marks," lead me to understand it is not the same body as that discovered on May 1, 1999 and felt to be Mr. Mallory. So is this other body still missing, and is its reported location such that it would be reasonable to suspect it is Irvine's?

I understand that Mallory had a rope tied around him. What force would be necessary to break such a rope, and is that likely to have occurred in his fall? I am not a climber, but it sounds like Mallory fell still roped to something, which seems like it would have to be Irvine. If that were the case, could the fall have broken the rope, or would it have had to be cut after the fall?

Gordon J. Cain
Calgary, Alberta, Canada



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Yes, we believe the body found by Wang Hangbao is that of Irvine's, not Mallory's. We believe the fall caused the rope to break.



Question:

I have a question based on the description given in Unsworth's book, Everest. According to Odell, on the day when he last saw Mallory and Irvine, there was a storm between 2 and 4 p.m. Assuming that the two climbers continued their way up despite the storm, and assuming that the accident didn't take place until after 4 p.m., they should have been on the summit cone or the ridge when the storm cleared. According to the book, once the storm abated, "sunshine bathed the mountain," and "two moving black dots would have been clearly visible." Odell reports that there was no sign of anyone on the summit cone or the ridge after the storm abated. My question is, could they have been there and could Odell have missed seeing them?

Thank you.

Tejinder Singh
Bombay, India



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Odell admitted that he could easily have missed Mallory and Irvine among the maze of rocks and snow. That he didn't see them on the summit ridge is not conclusive evidence that they did not summit that day.



Question:

Any chance for a good graphic or picture of the final part of the climb, say from the Balcony on up? I would like to see the distances and obstacles at this height. Even some measurements either in feet or meters re elevation and distances to go. For example, I understand the Hillary Step is 10 meters or 32 feet straight up and very intimidating because climbers are so exhausted. I'd like to see graphically what they face. I enjoy the site and check it daily. Thanks.

Timothy Gartner
San Francisco, CA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

As we are currently on the North side of Everest, our focus is not the south side's features and terrain. But there are some good pictures in Mountain Without Mercy and in Chris Bonnington's biography, Mountaineer, depicting details from the southeast ridge from the Balcony up.



Question:

Although I am not a climber I have seen the IMAX film and have read the Krakauer book. I am fascinated by the adventure and drama of climbing the world's tallest mountain. Regarding the Mallory search, my feeling is that if one can't or doesn't make it down off the mountain after reaching the top then for purposes of records it doesn't count. Hence, whether Mallory died going up or coming down is a moot point. He didn't survive. No record. I am interested in hearing the point of view of climbers on this. Help me here.

Leo Dymkoski
Litchfield, Maine



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We agree that, of course, Hillary and Tenzing were the first to successfully reach the summit of Everest—because they returned. We have no intention of taking that remarkable achievement away from them. Reaching the summit of Everest is only half the climb.



Comment:

Dear Liesl,
Your dispatches are fabulous - full of the energy you exhibited on the mountain and rich in detail and in the human perspective. Thank you for enhancing our view!!

The woman you described at the prayer wheel at the Rongbuk Monastery was there when I was there also and was kind of astonished as she watched me do 75 revolutions of the wheel for good luck to the expedition and, of course, to Jake.

Keep up the great work. We all await with baited breath. Best,

Alice Norton (Jake's Mom)
Boulder, CO



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Alice, thanks from all of us and we miss you here!



Question:

Would the conditions in 1924 somehow have improved M&I's chances of ascending the gully at the Second Step, such as snow and ice in the gully, fingerless gloves, etc? Or could they have by-passed it altogether? There must be a reason that would account for their mid-day progress at possibly the Third Step at the "base of the Pyramide," as reported by Noel Odell.

Best of luck. You've stunned us all.

Chris Searl
Santa Monica, CA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

There was less ice in the gully on the Second Step than in later years, but the same conditions could have worked in their favor because it was dry compact rock. As far as bypassing the Second Step is concerned, there is no reasonable bypass until the Great Couloir.



Question:

There was a picture of Mallory's body in a Sydney newspaper yesterday. The picture showed Mallory's upper body, head and hands. His arms were covered in rocks up to halfway up his upper arms, and down to his wrists. His clothing was generally intact apart from a large part of his back and a small part of his upper arms, which were uncovered.

Does that photo show how the climbers found Mallory, or did they have to dig him out from under a pile of scree and snow? Was his clothing like that when they found him, or is it the result of surgery that they did to work out what they had found?

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The picture you have described was shot before the climbers touched anything or retrieved anything from Mallory.



Question:

I have read with great interest the account of your expedition on Everest. I have a question re the camera. Are you sure that the camera carried by Mallory was the Kodak Vest Pocket. This was in fact quite a large camera. I have in my possession an smaller camera known as a "VP Twin" made in England around the same time. It measures 2.5 X3.5 inches and weighs no more than several ounces. Would this be more likely the camera to be carried by a mountaineer? The VP Twin is made of Bakelite and has very little metal apart from the viewfinder. This would make location with a metal detector very difficult.

Your comment, or at least refutation, would be welcome.

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We know that Mallory and Irvine had a Vest pocket Kodak camera because Somervell loaned his to them on their ascent up the mountain from Camp IV. (See The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine.) Your comments about the lighter comments are very interesting, however. The Vest pocket is a little larger and does have metal on it. For more information about the Vest pocket, visit The Camera.




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