Controversy Surrounds Everest Expedition To Search For Irvine And The Camera

Andrew Irvine and George 007

More than 87 years after their deaths on Everest, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine continue to cast large shadows over the mountain. For decades, historians have wondered whether or not Mallory and Irvine reached the summit of the mountain 29 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Either way, the two men died on the descent, and created a mystery of epic proportions that still inspires climbers and explorers to this day.

The discovery of Mallory’s body, high on the mountain, back in 1999 has done nothing to clear-up the mystery. As expected, Mallory was not carrying the expedition’s camera when he died, as that duty would have fallen to his teammate Irvine. There are some who believe that that camera is still on Irvine’s body, where ever that may be, and that it could still contain the photos that will prove that the two men went to the summit.

Now, a controversial new expedition is being planned to go in search of Irvine’s remains and the elusive camera. According to this story from The Guardian, American Everest enthusiast Tom Holzel is organizing a team to go to the mountain this December to look for the missing climber’s body. Holzel believes that he has located Irvine, and hopefully the camera, using high resolution satellite images, and he will direct a squad of mountaineers to that location in anticipation of the find. He also believes that if he is correct, the discovery will spark a media frenzy over the find.

This expedition is expected to cost roughly $250,000 and will be filmed by the BBC. The plan is to go during the winter, when few teams are on the mountain, and locate the body without anyone else around.  If they’re successful, and they do find the camera, it could potentially bring an end to one of the biggest mountaineering mysteries of the 20th Century.

But not everyone thinks that that Holzel is handling the search in the best possible way. British climbing legend Chris Bonington has been critical of the expedition calling it “unsavory.” He feels that the plan is trying to capitalize on the find and commercialize the search, with the hopes of making a profit off of the photos. He also feels that the mystery is best left alone and allowed to live as a legend in our minds.

Either way, it seems that the expedition will forge ahead later this year. Climbing Everest in December doesn’t sound like it’ll be the conditions for being on the mountain, and if Irvine’s remains are located high up, they may never get close to him due to the weather conditions. Still, it seems there will be a clandestine team on Everest, looking to solve the mystery of Mallory, Irvine, and the Camera.

There are a lot of obstacles to their success however, and climbing the mountain is just one of them. They may get there and find that the body isn’t even Irvine’s at all. There is the chance that it isn’t even a body, since they are using satellite imagery after all. And even if it is Irvine, he may or may not have the camera. And even if the camera is there, it could be broken, destroying the film inside.

Perhaps the mystery will live on, as it should.

Kraig Becker

3 thoughts on “Controversy Surrounds Everest Expedition To Search For Irvine And The Camera”

  1. Tough one. I think on one hand, Mallory and Irvine would certainly have wanted the world to know of their accomplishment, had they reached the top. However, if proof is found that they did not summit, what happens next? Do they, along with all the other pre war expeditions, just fade away? I feel what's kept interest alive in these expeditions has mainly been this great mystery. To have the prewar expedtions just fade away would be an awful shame. It would be an outrage to the unbeliveable determination, and spirit put in by these men. For that reason I would want this mystery to remain as such, so that we not forget about these early pioneers.Not just M&I, but Norton, Odell, Finch, Wager, Smythe, everyone who battled with the mountain in the early days. If Sandy is found, I should hope he is treated with the utmost respect that he deserves. This commercialization is almost disrespectful to the memory of Mallory and Irvine.Whatever the end result, lest we forget the efforts of these expeditions 1921-1938.

  2. Why look for evidence of who summitted first? Because it's there.

    Why shouldn't it be done if technically possible? That's how Everest was seen in the 1920's and it follows in the spirit of what they were trying to achieve.

    Someone will find an answer one day so why should it not be now.

    If by answering the question it prevents the ongoing of commercialisation of the subject by climbers, film makers and some members of the 20's climbing party's families then so be it.

    I doubt the level of interest will wane as there seems to be an ongoing fascination in the achievements of explorers who made the North and South Poles and those who pushed the absolute physical and technological boundaries at that time.

    Let the question be answered once and for all and let the men involved rest in peace.

  3. This is a debatable topic, no doubt. But if Mallory and Irvine had in fact summitted, the news would cause a lot of furore and a new debate, over whether to snatch away the status of 'first summit' to Hillary and Norgay will no doubt be created. If it is established that Mallory and Irvine did not summit, however, then their legend and the mystery around them will fade, and so will all interest in due course of time.
    Whatever be the result of this expedition, it will cause much anguish and furore. It doesn't seem to benefit anyone other than make celebrities out of the men who find the body and of course make the newspapers and mags richer. So, even though we pine to know how they fared, it is best to leave the dead alone. I hope this expedition is not successful with all my heart…

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