Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Friday, 16 September 2011
It was on July 14 1865, after eight attempts, that Whymper finally made it to the top of the mountain. However, on the descent four members of the party were dragged to their deaths, as reported in the Manchester Guardian on July 21 1865:
Read about Whymper's London here.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Speke's theory that Lake Victoria was the source of Nile was rejected by Burton, thus beginning a bitter public dispute between the two men. On September 15 1864, shortly before Speke and Burton were to debate the subject publicly, Speke was killed by his own gun while hunting. It remains uncertain whether it was an accident or suicide. It was a sad end to an eventful life, as shown in this Manchester Guardian news item from September 19 1864:
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
As shown in Those Who Dared passim, the magazine also published numerous essays on mountaineering and the outdoors. As well as an interview with Tryggve Gran, the only Norwegian member of Captain Scott's South Pole team, there was the famous 1965 Al Avarez article about the climber, Peter Crew. A few years later Crew wrote a detailed account, with pictures by Leo Dickinson, about the first ascent of North Gaulton Castle, a sea stack found on Orkney's west mainland (September 6 1970).
It is another Dickinson picture that has been chosen for the exhibition - this time a stunning shot from the north face of the Eiger. The words are by Michael Deakin, producer of a Yorkshire TV programme about the climb (directed and filmed by Dickinson and Cliff Phillips). The article appeared on December 5 1970.
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
The publishing of old diaries on Twitter is hardly a new idea as Captain Scott's appeared back in 2009. However, there is a Mawson link with communication technology as he was involved in establishing the first Antarctic wireless radio connection, linking Hobart via a radio relay station established at Wireless Hill on Macquarie Island.
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Thursday, 24 March 2011
These days the name Albalakov is more often associated with Yevgeniy's older brother Vitaly - also a mountaineer and regarded as the 'father' of Russian climbing. Vitaly Abalakov made many difficult ascents including Lenin Peak in 1934. He also did considerable work on climbing equipment development and most mountaineers will be familiar the Abalakov thread, his most famous invention, This simply consists of two holes being drilled into solid ice to form a v-like channel. Tape or cord is then threaded through and tied together to form a loop, which is then used for belaying or abseiling.
I was introduced to the thread on a recent ice climbing trip and must admit to feeling extremely nervous at the thought of putting my trust in what is essentially a bit of tat wrapped around some frozen water. It was soon demonstrated just how strong the belay actually is, although I'll leave it up to mountaineer Andy Kirkpatrick to give a full explanation.
Of course with great inventions there can be conjecture as to who came up with the original idea. It has been said that it was actually the American climber Jeff Lowe who developed the technique which may explain why in certain parts of the globe the anchor is known as the V-thread. Good historical background can be found in this article from Glenmore Lodge.
I was hoping to find a great article about one of the Abalakov brothers unfortunately there were only a few mentions in the archive. The following article mentions Vitaly but I reproduce it merely to illustrate what elite Scottish mountaineers were wearing circa 1974.
(The Guardian, July 15 1974)
Monday, 21 March 2011
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Of course Stanley always claimed to be American but he was actually born John Rowlands and brought up in Denbigh's St Asaph workhouse. He emigrated to the US in 1859.
Not surprisingly, the statue has proved to be controversial. Many in the town are proud of the explorer and feel he's had a bad press, being misrepresented both by the Victorian establishment and latter day historians. However, at the unveiling of the statue, Selwyn Williams, a lecturer at Bangor University, representing opponents of the memorial, told reporters: "Stanley was one of the cruellest Victorian expeditionary surveyors. Needless to say all the statutes of Stanley in Africa have been taken down a long time ago. They (Stanley and King Leopold II of Belgium) turned the Congo into the worst example of colonisation, brutal exploitation, enslavement and genocide in Africa. I'm sure most Welsh people share the view that Stanley's 'exploitation by warfare' in Africa was contemptible."
Tim Jeal, author of Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer unveiled the statue and wrote about the day in the Daily Telegraph. And talking of Stanley statues, it's about a year ago since it was reported that there were moves afoot to restore a memorial to the explorer in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Thursday, 3 March 2011
At the heavily discounted price of just £1.00, I just had to buy the book. It's selling for £21.25 on Amazon so hurry on down to the gallery while stocks last.
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
In 1881, Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely led the US Lady Franklin Bay Expedition to northern Ellesmere Island as part of the first International Polar Year (a series of coordinated international expeditions to the polar regions). One of the aims was to create an Arctic base. However, the adventure ended with Greely and six others being rescued in June 1884. Soon after, the expedition received international attention due to evidence of cannibalism.
Michael Robinson writes on Time to Eat the Dogs that "the Greely Expedition was supposed to represent a new kind of Arctic exploration, one focused on international, collaborative science rather than pell mell dashes to the North Pole. In the end, however, the expedition signaled the end of serious collaboration between Arctic explorers and scientists for decades". This is followed by a excerpt about Greely from The Coldest Crucible. Michael was also an advisor and contributed to a recent PBS documentary about the exhibition which can be viewed here.
Incidentally, the post includes page images from the Illustrated London News. Between 1842 and 1971, the paper was one of London's major publishing institutions, pioneering the use of drawings in the service of reportage. At its peak, the ILN had a circulation of about 300,000 and was the publication of choice for the Victorian middle classes, transforming illustrations into a credible, factual, news reporting tool. Previously, illustrations had been used mainly for political caricatures or for sensational events like public hangings. Compared with the dense, text heavy, pages of other papers from the time, the ILN is a joy to view (and the reason why I decided against including Greely content from the Manchester Guardian in the post).
See here for access to the ILN digital archive.
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Friday, 28 January 2011
|Australian MP Greg Hunt has written to the Dr Liam Fox, the British Defence Secretary, asking for his assistance and has started a petition calling for the return of the map to Australia. However, the Daily Telegraph reports that UKHO's response to the request was to say: "Matthew Flinders was a Commander in Her Majesty's Royal Navy on board the HMS Investigator and, as such, the UK Government holds it as a public record and [it] is officially part of the UK National Archives."|
Friday, 21 January 2011
As ever, I was interested to see what contemporaneous news reports had to say about the man. Following the Guardian Book of Mountains thesis that at the beginning of the 20th century the Manchester Guardian was the paper of record for all things climbing, I was expecting at least something on the 1905 Kangchenjunga expedition. Unfortunately there was little apart from a few mentions. There were though some amusing reports of court cases, plus the following story about Crowley being banned from talking about the 15th century poet Gilles de Rais at Oxford University. Perhaps it was a quiet news day but the issue was thought important enough to warrant a leader column in the paper on February 4 1930. (Click images to enlarge)
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
While the British can seem obsessed with the exploits of Scott and Shackleton in Antarctica, Canadians are fascinated with the fate of the 1845 Franklin Expedition that set out in search of Northwest Passage, an Arctic waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, plus 129 crew members disappeared and little is known as to what happened - other than there is evidence that some of them survived for a number of years, along with lurid tales of cannibalism and lead poisoning.
The author recently talked about how he came to write Fitzjames's biography at Kennington's Durning Library, as a guest of the Friends of the library. He explained that as someone working in institutional investment marketing he travelled incessantly, often to San Francisco. On one flight the financier found himself reading Barrow's Boys while travelling above the Arctic, the area where the grisly events contained in the book took place. He became obsessed with the Franklin expedition and after leaving his job during Lehman Brothers bank collapse, decided to pursue this interest, resurrecting his original training as an archaeologist.
Battersby was aware of the many theories about the expedition but found himself irritated by numerous inconsistencies. So he decided to start from scratch and look at the subject afresh. Initial research led him to deciding to concentrate on the life of Fitzjames.
The talk consisted of a romp through the sailor's relatively short life (he was 32 when he joined the expedition). Previous references to the man usually had him down a fast-rising adventurous glamour boy of the British navy. He took part in the first steamer trip down the the Euphrates River and fought China during the first Opium War. Then, at the age of 29, he was promoted from lieutenant to commander. This has usually been attributed to an aristocratic background. However, after trawling through a mountain of archive material, Battersby discovered that Fitzjames was illegitimate and a self-made man, plus many more facts about the man.
This was a fascinating talk that brought Fitzjames and navy life in the 1840s alive. It was illustrated with such newly discovered details as unseen paintings by the sailor and the fact HMS Erebus and HMS Terror can, on close inspection, be seen reflected in the band around his hat (picture above).
There were plenty of questions but, inevitably, the one that generated the most interest was over a slide featuring the skulls, minus jawbones, of some of the Franklin expedition members. There's no getting away from the fact that all talk of this failed voyage from over 160 years ago will always turn to cannibalism.
Thanks to the Friends of Durning Library for organising such an illuminating evening. Mention must also be made of the fact that they are fighting hard to prevent sections of the service being closed down as part of the current UK spending cuts. The talk was yet another example of the varied services public libraries provide for the community.
Monday, 17 January 2011
Sunday, 16 January 2011
The yeti industry includes everything from books by the likes of Reinhold Messner, serious studies by cryptozoologists (students of unknown or undiscovered animals) to all manner of appearances in popular culture, including Dr Who.
One of the most recent investigations comes from Mike Allsop, a mountaineer who is hoping to locate and return the supposed hand and skull of a yeti that were stolen from a monastery in the village of Pangboche in 1999. Allsop was so taken with the story that he has worked with a film prop firm to produce replicas and in April he will present them to the monastery. However, he is willing to fly anywhere in the world to collect the originals. Much more information can be found on the returnthehand site.