Everest 1924: Where's the Camera?
Everyone knows that Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tensing Norgay were the first humans to reach Earth's highest point: the summit of Mount Everest in the Himalayas. Right? We all know that. After all, I've seen, personally, Sir Edmond's axe on display at the Explorer's Club in New York City (where I three months trying, unsuccessfully, to convince them to re-do their website).
On June 8, 1924, one of the first real assaults on the Everest summit met with... mystery.
George Mallory and Andrew "Sandy" Irvine left their tent high up on the slopes of Mount Everest and climbed into history. They were seen at 12:50 pm just 800 feet from the summit and "going strong for the top". Within minutes, Mallory and Irvine had disappeared in a snowstorm and were never seen alive again.
What happened to these two pioneering climbers is perhaps the most famous mystery in the history of mountaineering. For over 75 years there has been fierce debate over whether they were the first to reach the summit, doing so 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. In March 1999 an expedition primarily sponsored by the BBC climbed to the North Face of Everest. The discoveries of this expedition became front page news around the world.
Did George Leigh Mallory Summit Mt Everest? What happened? George's climbing partner Sandy had a Kodak VPK camera (pictured below) with him. Is it still on Everest? According to experts at Kodak, the film inside the camera recorded only blue and green light wavelengths, so it could still potentially produce a salvagable image. A 2005 expedition to the top did not find the camera, but as you can see above, they did find George.
Although it all made for an interesting book (and a damned cool Web page, with audio soundbites), the mystery endures. The camera that Mallory is reputed to have taken up with him was not found with his body. It is quite possible that he gave it to Irvine, who was much more practical than Mallory. Somewhere on the North Face of Everest still lies the body of Andrew Irvine, undisturbed since 1975, and possibly still holding the secret of their remarkable and heroic attempt on Everest in 1924.
Footnote: The Una Tropical Hand Camera belonging to John Noel (pictured,right), the explorer who took the last known photo of the pair, was recently sold at auction(cool pic) by Christie's of London.