More Thoughts on Mallory, Irvine and the Camera

Last week I posted a story about an upcoming search to fine George Mallory and Sandy Irvine’s missing camera on Everest. When the story broke at that time, the news was that Everest historian Tom Holzel had been using satellite imagery of the mountain to search for the body of Irvine, who was the climbing partner of Mallory on their fateful 1924 expedition. Holzel believes that he has now found the missing climber, and perhaps a camera that could put an end to more than 85 years of speculation.

Ever since they perished on the mountain, people have wondered if Mallory and Irvine may have successfully made it to the top of Everest. If they had, they surely would have taken photos of it, and those photos could still be waiting to be developed, in a camera, lost somewhere on Everest. When Mallory’s body was discovered back in 1999, that camera was not found on his body, so naturally, the speculation was that Irvine was probably carrying it. To date, his body has not been found, but an expedition is being mounted for this spring to go examine the area that Holzel has pinpointed to see if it indeed Irvine, and discover if he still carries the missing camera.

The story has gotten a lot more attention since I first wrote about it last week, with a couple of other websites that I respect weighing in on the topic. First, Alan Arnette has posted a good synopsis of the entire affair in the latest post to his Everest 2010 blog. Alan’s examination of the event includes more insight into how Holzel determined where to search for Irvine and why he thinks that an “oblong blob” seen in the satellite imagery may very well be man that everyone has been looking for for all these years. It’s a very compelling story. From there, Alan follows up his detailed intro with a brief interview with Holzel himself. in which he talks about the challenges of finding the body and organizing and expedition to go and look. To close things off, there is even a link to see the image that Holzel has been studying for yourself. Click here to check it out.

Not to be left out of the party, ExWeb has also posted a story of their own on the search for Irvine’s body. It contains much of the same information as we’ve seen elsewhere, including an explanation of the search for the camera too, but they also include some analysis of the photographs to show what is purported to be Irvine’s body.

I’ve mentioned multiple times over the years that the camera has become the legendary Holy Grail of Mountaineering. Personally, I think it’s an extremely long shot that even if Irvine’s body is found, the camera will still be on him, and intact, without the film being exposed. After all, it has been out in the elements, in one of the harshest environments on the planet for nearly 86 years.

And not to sound too much like a broken record, but what if it is found and the photos are able to be properly developed, and they show the two men on the summit? Will that change how we feel about who climbed the mountain first? It was another 30 years before Hillary and Norgay topped out on the mountain, and made it back down in one piece. Standing on top is just one part of a successful climb. Still, it would be pretty amazing to think that they may have made it to the summit considering there relatively primitive gear and clothing back then.

Efforts are underway to launch an expedition this spring to determine once and for all of this “blob” really is Irvine. Reportedly, Thom Pollard and Jake Norton, both of whom were on the 1999 team that discovered Mallory, are ready to go. But with a small window of time to finding funding and organize the climb, it may have to wait until 2011 for a proper look around the mountain.

Kraig Becker

8 thoughts on “More Thoughts on Mallory, Irvine and the Camera”

  1. As science and technology improves I imagine we'll be finding a lot of things that were thought to be lost forever. I can't decide what I want to happen with this.

  2. I'm with you Scott. Part of me wants to know what the camera has on it, part of me likes the enduring mystery.

    If they did make it to the top, but not back down, it would add a certain mystique to the expedition, above and beyond what it already has. Almost like Scott's final antarctic expedition which ended so horribly.

  3. Although with a certain pain in my heart, I personally hope they don't find the camera. Let mystery reign. Every good story needs some of it.

  4. I really hope they find the camera and made it to the top.

    I don't think it will change the way we see Norgay and Hillary, as you said, coming back down alive is part of their success.

    But, I think it would provide a certain element of accomplishment knowing that the two men that died doing something they loved did see the top of the world before doing so.

  5. It certainly would prove a lot. The mere fact that they could make it to the top with their relatively primitive climbing gear and non-technical clothing, would be an amazing thing, in and of itself.

  6. Heey guys, Is it possible to order that 1999 BBC documentary on DVD somewhere? Or maybe it could be seen again on the net? 30 seconds of it is all I found. I wish the new team that will search for Irvine and the missing camera in 2010-2011 ALL succes!

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