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Questions and Responses
Set 7, posted May 15, 1999
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Question:

I am awestruck by the discoveries you have made. I have one observation, though. If Mallory and his partner had been roped up, and on the assumption that Mallory fell, would not his partner have braced himself to try to resist the fall impact? If his partner was on a ridge, and if the rope parted and those forces of the fall were suddenly released, could it not be a possibility that his partner fell on the other side of the mountain as a result of recoil? On the other hand, perhaps the same applied to Mallory; his partner could have fallen first and Mallory then fell from the recoil. The application of Newton's laws still remain, and have, obviously, lethal and dangerous effect where you are. Godspeed, and I hope this message finds you all well.

Tom Payne
Edmonton, Ab., Canada



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The injuries observed on Mallory are probably not sufficient for a fall from the ridge. That is, we think Mallory fell from a position lower down. Also, the old ropes used in the 1920's did not have much stretch, so it is unlikely that there would have been much of a recoil effect.



Question:

Oh man! Your adventure is getting my blood pumping and I am a sea level gal! I keep wondering what it is about you mountain-climber types that brings you into the hands of nature and God and peril, living, hopefully, to tell about it. I feel like there is an element of Russian Roulette with every climb and I pray for every last one of you to be careful. The description of the rescue was so riveting and all of the dispatches have me hungering to know just what is next. Are you getting into a tighter schedule since the distance and not the ease is less? I await your next dispatch and wish you a big party back home. The mother in me is running for the Band Aids and Neosporin.

Take care of yourselves!

Lisa Souza
Lafayette, CA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We are currently in 'hold' mode due to precipitation and high winds. Yes, time will run out. So the team will have to decide in the next 48 hours whether they will continue up or come down at last.



Question:

Are there plans to photograph the First, Second, and Third Steps from Odell's1924 observation point? If yes, then might these photographs be published?

Barney Mattingly
Westford, MA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Andy Politz the "Steps" of Everest with his 50 mm lens. Please see previous dispatch about this. We will try to publish these photos upon the team's return to the States.



Question:

I was wondering how you searched for the bodies of Mallory and Irvine. Knowing more or less where the bodies should be, did you wander around, looking at the ground, or did you spot more probable areas with the use of satellite pictures or other similar technologies?

Your web site is really excellent. I'm looking forward to the rest of the story.

Ezra Rochat
Geneva, Switzerland



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The search plan is outlined in our Web feature titled "The Search Plan". Please see how our team worked with researcher Jochen Hemmleb on delineating a search area for the climbers to climb to and begin their search. GPS coordinates were input into handheld units for the climbers, too.



Question:

My congratulations to the team on the discovery of George Mallory's resting place, and good luck in locating Sandy Irvine's. Reading the other e-mails leads me to believe that all speculation is that Mallory fell, taking Irvine with him. Couldn't it be the other way around—that Irvine fell first? If so, given the topography, would that have an influence on where to search for Irvine? How much luck has there been in locating the 1975 Chinese site? However it goes, here's to cooperative weather and a safe return for all of you.

David Connors
Marietta, GA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Yes, it could have been the other way around, with certain implications for the new search. Our second search team is currently on the mountain and hopes to verify our ideas in this respect. They will attempt to look in all possible areas where Irvine could have either fallen or walked and simply sat down.



Question:

Even if it is found that Mallery and Irvine summited Everest—which would be a most extraordinary discovery of a most extraordinary achievement—it should not dismiss the accomplishment of Hillary and Norgay in 1953. As a climber I have always felt that at least half the victory is getting down alive. I sometimes believe that no one should be given credit for a "successful" summit unless they both get up and down. It is common knowledge that most accidents occur on the descent when energy is spent, the weather deteriorates, and the climb becomes more difficult and more dangerous. I anxiously await news that proves Mallory and/or Irvine summited. But to me the mountain will always be Hillary and Norgay's.

Scott Wyatt
Logan, UT



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

You have to consider that in both Unsworth's and Gillman's books on Everest, no one who didn't make it down has been denied a 'summit'.



Question:

This has been one the most exciting adventures I have ever followed. I first became aquatinted with the Mallory and Irvine attempt on Everest as a young fellow of 17 in 1941. Born and raised in Seattle, the mountains dominated my view in my early youth. After WWII on my return I climbed my first mountain. Equipment was difficult to find, and all of it had to be imported from Switzerland. The best source was a small co-op, later to become the REI, located in a small room in a lawyer's office in downtown Seattle. Climbing boots were fashioned from ordinary heavy boots purchased from the local market. You then installed either Swiss edge nails, which was a soft metal, placed in pairs at right angles to the edge of sole around the shoe, or a much harder serrated 3/4-in. nail that was placed around the outer edge of the sole. This was the Triconni nail and arrived on scene a little after the Swiss edge nail. The only mention of footwear for Mallory was a boot with hob nails. In this part of the country the hobnail is associated with the 'logger boot' on which the small pointed nails are arrange over the sole of the boot. Is there any indication that one of these two Swiss nails were used on Mallory's boot?

I greatly appreciated this dedicated effort to find an answer to this mystery that has been with us for so many decades. I cannot imagine a mountaineer of any age who is not fascinated with every moment of the great search. Thank you.

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Without having the picture of the boot in front of us (here at ABC), we believe the boot was a nailed boot, but don't know what kind of nails were used. Images from the site and the "artifacts" will be published when the team returns from Everest. Perhaps you could send us your assessment then.



Question:

What does the find mean to you as climbers? To history it could mean that two people who were thought to be the first men up to Mt. Everest will be grouped with the many men that climbed after. As mountaineers, I'm sure that you have a different perspective on the matter. Is it exciting to have as your purpose something besides getting to the summit? Is this just as big an adventure as if you had actually reached the summit?

(name witheld by request)



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Yes, this climb of Everest has not just been a "summit attempt." It is the history of the North side expeditions that has motivated our "search" and attempt at finding further clues to solving the mysteries surrounding Mallory and Irvine.



Question:

I have a question regarding the whole ethos of the current expedition. The expedition has set off with some high ideals, and published various details about the aims of this trip to Everest. They have all called it The Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition.

My question is this: why, having found the body of George Mallory, and completing what could be considered half of the main goal, is a push for the summit being made? A push before some other important research work is carried out? I have gathered from reading the dispatches here and on Mountainzone that the idea was to discover, if possible, as much as they could about the demise of Mallory and Irvine. Then, if possible, prove or disprove, whether or not Everest was summited in 1924.

I realize that some further work can be carried out on the way to the summit. Mainly, Conrad Anker attempting to free climb the second step. Will any of the other work be attempted? Will a search be made on the terrace where Mallory was found to try and discover the location of the "old Eglish dead" identified in 1975? Will the climbers go out of their way to find the other camps? Will they try and locate the site of the ice-axe find from 1933? Will the metal detectors be used?

I have never climbed anything higher than Hay Tor in Devon UK. I have no idea of the conditions on Mt Everest, or the effects of high-atitude climbing on a human being. The only clues I have are from reading books and the dispatches on sites such as this. So it is obviously much easier for me to sound a bit critical from the comfort and safety of my living room, than it is to experience these conditions. I just wondered if it's possible for anyone to answer these worries I have about the research side of this expedition now appearing to take second place.

As a footnote, I do hope that everyone returns safely. And also that the injured climbers rescued the other day make a full return to health.

Yours Sincerely,

Julian Butterworth
Reading Berkshire UK



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Regarding the search, follow up by reading our dispatches. Many things will be done on the summit attempt: 1) an attempt to free climb the Second Step as Mallory and Irvine would have had to; 2) A search for the site of the 1933 ice axe; 3) A search for oxygen bottles found by Eric Simonson in 1991, believed to be from the 1922 expedition. Conditions on the mountain are such that chances for a successful search (in the snow) are slim.



Question:

I was very disappointed to see the picture of Mallory in Time as he still has a living daughter and perhaps other children. While I admire your efforts, was this really necessary? It degrades the spirit of mountaineering. (I have had similar reactions to previous presentations of others emphasizing bodies rather than adventure and am quite thankful that I did not pass bodies on any of my Himalayan climbs).

Louis Reichardt
San Francisco, CA



Response from NOVA:

NOVA was not involved in selling the photos of George Leigh Mallory's body. As we proceed to cover this story on this Web site and in the upcoming NOVA program we will endeavor to take into consideration the wishes of the Mallory family and the dictates of good taste and journalistic responsibility.



Question:

Under the assumption that Mallory and Irvine were roped together, is it possible that when Mallory fell that Irvine tried to reach him, fighting exhaustion left equipment behind along the route. ie. iceaxe, camera etc. Additionally I must say I have completely enjoyed the Web site and daily updates of the expedition. It has been both informative and exciting for me and for my family.

Thanks to all of you.

John Pappas
Kingman, AZ



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Yes, it is possible that Irvine survived the fall and then tried to either rescue Mallory or moved off to try and survive the night. There are very few clues to help us determine what happened to Irvine.



Question:

If you do not find the body of Irvine and the camera this time, do you plan to go back next year?

Kamui
Madison, WI



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

There are currently no plans to return to Everest to continue searching for the camera or Irvine.



Question:

What are the chances that if you find Mallory's camera equipment that the film will be able to be developed? How can you determine that Mallory and his companion actually summited?

You guys are awesome. I read the book Into Thin Air. You are total heroes. Please be careful and may God bless the rest of your journey.

Dennis Clements
Kirkwood, MO



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Please read our feature by Kodakon their ability to process the film.



Question:

There seems to be much confusion among those of us following the team's progress about whether or not an attempt will be made to find Sandy Irvine and/or the camera. The last few dispatches from Liesl seem to indicate preparations being made for a summit attempt rather than a continuation of any more searching. Did the rescue assistance rendered to the Ukrainian climbers eat up the allotted time? Or do you still plan to do more searching?

Craig
Annapolis, MD



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

The team is still planning on searching for Irvine and for any further evidence, such as the camera.



Question:

I remain astounded by the incredible success of your team in finding Mallory. Although the great mystery may never be solved, the 1924 expedition of Mallory and Irvine has fascinated me for years, and your expedition is bringing back to life their haunting story.

I understand that the team believes that Mallory's body was NOT the body found by the Chinese climber in 1975, but it is not clear why. Is this belief based on location (too far from the Chinese camp)? Or perhaps the attitude of the body (not face up where the hole in the cheek which the Chinese climber saw would be visible)? I'm probably assuming too much, but wouldn't wind and erosion be able to move and turn bodies up there? Especially over the 24-year span of time since 1975? I would be interested in the reasons the team believes Mallory's body was not the one seen in 1975.

In any case, congratulations on your success, and thank you for reviving the world's interest in the brave and bold Mallory and Irvine.

Sincerely, Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

Bob Russell
San Ramon, CA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

We firmly believe that the body found is not the body found in 1975. The posture of Mallory's body indicates that it was not moved by any avalanches, etc. And this posture is significantly different from that the Chinese described.



Question:

I'm very, very interested in this story. Mallory and Irvine, what can one say! In regards to the Second Step: what if it had features that would allow an ascent in 1924 which have since eroded away, so that fifty years later the Chinese had to use a ladder?

Larry Tucker
Kapa'au, HI



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

It is very unlikely that the Second Step's features have changed considerably in the 75 years since Mallory and Irvine would have attempted it. Unless you assume a very heavy rock fall that could have changed the face of the Second Step, we think that the structure of the rock has remained the same. No picture of the Second Step gives any indication that such an event has occurred.



Question:

Will you be using a metal detector to search for the oxygen apparatus on your way to the summit?

How does the absence of apparatus where Mallory was found bear on the probability that he and Irvine were returning from the summit when he fell?

Jay Breen
Lawrence, MA



Response from Liesl Clark, NOVA Producer:

In all probability the metal detector won't be used on the summit attempt, but will be used for the second search attempt in the area where we believe Irvine might be. The absence of oxygen apparatus at the site where we found Mallory, does not indicate that he wasn't wearing it when he fell. It could either indicate that he had used up all his oxygen and was on his way down or that it was ripped off during the fall.




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