Wednesday, 14 December 2011

December 14 1911: Roald Amundsen reaches the south pole


On 14 December 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team became the first people to reach the South Pole. The Guardian and Observer reported it - but not until three months later. Read the articles on the From the archive blog.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Blue plaque for Edward Whymper

Edward Whymper has become the first mountaineer to be commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque. One hundred years after his death, the Teddington home of the first man to climb the Matterhorn now boasts one of the unique design icons. The plaque was unveiled by Mick Fowler, president of the Alpine Club - the great organisation of which Whymper was a prominent member. 

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:


This provoked a scandal with claims that the rope had been cut and there was even talk of Queen Victoria suggesting that mountaineering should be outlawed. Whymper was haunted by the deaths and he later wrote in Scrambles Amongst the Alps "I see my comrades of the Matterhorn slipping in their backs, their arms outstretched, one after the other". But not everyone blamed him for the accident as shown by the following article which appeared in the paper a week later:


Read about Whymper's London here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The death of John Hanning Speke

A new book reappraises 19th-century explorer John Hanning Speke's place in history. During his life, Speke's claim to have the found the Nile source was challenged and his achievements were diminished by fellow traveller Sir Richard Burton, who described him as a "deluded nonentity" - a view repeated by successive biographers. However, Tim Jeal reveals a very different man in Explorers of the Nile, someone who he believes should be in the pantheon of the world's greatest explorers. Read more about it in an Observer article and a piece by Jeal.

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

Not to be sold separately: The Observer Colour Magazine 1964-1995

Not to be sold separately: The Observer Colour Magazine 1964-1995, is a new exhibition at Kings Place that celebrates the influence of the paper's magazine on British newspaper publishing. Launched on September 6 1964, the magazine was to combine the best of the Observer's own editorial staff with freelancers, aiming to compete with the Sunday Times magazine (launched in 1962) and titles such as Life and Paris Match. Photojournalism featured heavily on the pages and an introduction to the exhibition states "At a time when most art galleries did not show photographs, the magazine played pivotal role." Subjects covered in the exhibition include everything from punk rock, the new universities being built in the 1960s to Gypsies, with work by the likes of Don McCullin, Jane Bown and Ian Berry.

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.


What makes Not to be sold separately a unique exhibition is that this is the first time many of the images have been seen since publication. Unlike the rest of the paper, the Observer Magazine hasn't been digitised, nor is there an index. Read more about the magazine archive here.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Douglas Mawson on Twitter

The diary entries of polar exlorer Sir Douglas Mawson can now be read on Twitter, one hundred years afer the Australian set out to explore Antarctica's King George V Land. The Tasmanian Department of Economic Development and Tourism, as part of Antarctic Centennial Year, is doing the tweeting. Given though that Mawson was a prolific diary writer it must a challenge to distill his words down to 140 characters. At this stage the expedition is still loading supplies in London.

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

Colin Kirkus

An excellent profile of the rock-climber Colin Kirkus recently appeared on the Footless Crow blog. It tells the story of how the clerk from a Liverpool insurance office "strode like a Colossus across the British climbing scene", putting up a series of hard routes during the late1920s and early-1930s, However, after a fatal accident on Ben Nevis in 1934 in which he was seriously injured and his climbing partner, Maurice Linnell, died, Kirkus never fully recovered - both physically or the urge to create new lines.

I always wanted to include a piece about Colin Kirkus in the Guardian Book of Mountains, particularly a review of his 1941 book, Let's Go Climbing! Alas, the paper didn't cover it. On a more sombre note, on April 2 1934 it carried a detailed report of the Ben Nevis accident and on April 20, an interview with him. (click on images to enlarge)



Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tarnbagging in the Lake District

Tarnbagging is the sport of visiting as many English Lakeland tarns as possible. There are over 300 of them so adventurous walkers have the perfect excuse to visit remote parts of the national park. However, as I point out in a Guardian travel piece, this is hardly a new trend. In November 1959, Harry Griffin, the Guardian's legendary Lakeland Country diarist, reported in the paper that two Grasmere men, Colin Dodgson and Timothy Tyson, had bathed in approximately 463 tarns. Tyson was aged 75 when he finished the challenge.



















Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Abalakov thread

March 24 is the anniversary of the death of Yevgeniy Abalakov, the Russian mountaineer who died in 1948 at the age of 41. As Soviet mountaineer No.1, he was the first to climb Stalin Peak (renamed Communism Peak in 1962, Ismoil Somoni Peak in 1998). On February 17, 1943, Alabakov was part of a group of military mountaineers who worked their way through mine and ice fields on Mt Elbrus to throw off Nazi flags and set up Soviet ones. This symbolic event crowned the 15-month-long battle for the Caucasus.

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

Climbing up the Eiffel Tower

Sad to hear that Guardian journalist, Peter Lennon, has died at the age of 81. Peter was a junior Paris correspondent for the paper in the 1960s, before leaving to freelance. He re-joined as a feature writer and interviewer in 1989 and stayed until 2005, although continuing to contribute pieces until quite recently. In 1967 he and French cinematographer Raoul Coutard released The Rocky Road to Dublin, a portrait of Ireland in the 1960s - a film that caused great uproar in Peter's country of birth. Read more about his life in the Guardian obituary and also New Yorker blogpost.

Peter was a brilliant writer so it was a pleasure to be able to use one of his pieces in the Guardian Book of Mountains. It's about a mountaineering triumph but not quite the usual sort of report as the following from May 1964 shows:


The article appeared in an early edition of the paper on May 4 1964 and was re-printed on May 26. Read more here.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Henry Morton Stanley statue unveiled

A statue of Victorian journalist and explorer, Henry Morton Stanley was unveiled in Denbigh, North Wales, on March 17 . The life-size bronze portrays him at the moment he found fellow adventurer Dr David Livingstone - arm outstretched, hat by his side and presumably uttering some memorable words. Residents of the town voted in favour of commemorating its most famous son and £31,000 was raised to pay for sculptor Nick Elphick's statute.
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

Night of Adventure

Around 400 armchair adventurers recently gathered at Leicester Square's Vue cinema to hear a diverse bunch of explorers share tales of their travel epics around the globe. This Night of Adventure included a pensioner who ran around the world, extreme base-jumper, crazy kayaker and an ex-soldier who walked the length of the Amazon.

Rather than being allowed to ramble on about their exploits, each speaker was limited to just 20 slides, each of which scrolled forward automatically every 20 seconds. In most cases this format worked very well with the speakers whetting appetites and leaving the audience wanting to hear more.

The first to take up this presentation challenge was Oli Broom who cycled 25,000 from Lords Cricket ground, London, to Brisbane Cricket ground, Australia to see the ashes. He made it in one piece and went on to watch England win the series. This was followed by Bonita Norris, the youngest British woman to climb Everest and then a succession of speakers ranging from professional explorers to the those who just head off in search of excitement. Highlights included Tristan Gooley, the 'Natural Navigator' and his infectious enthusiasm for travel using only nature's sign posts, and Rosie Swale-Pope who at 57 embarked on a mammoth five year adventure to run around the world. Absolutely unbelievable and she left audience and fellow-explorers alike in awe of her determination.

The final speaker, Ed Stafford, is the first known person to walk the length of the Amazon river. His talk was a little different to the others in that he was totally honest about both physical and mental stresses of travelling alone through inhospitable territory.

The event was organised by Alastair Humphreys in aid of Hope & Homes for Children. Alastair, whose adventures include a four year cycle ride around the world, chose to talk about a recent trip to Iceland where he followed a river from its source to the sea. It was a good illustration of the fact that you don't have to commit to year long feats of endurance to experience adventure.

A list of all the speakers can be seen here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Art at the rockface

A recent trip to Sheffield involved spending a bit of time in the city's Craft and Design Gallery. To be honest, displays of cutlery aren't really my thing although there were some impressive looking coffee pots to be seen. However, while wandering around the small shop I came across Art at the rockface: The fascination of stone, the book to accompany a 2006 exhibition of the same name. The study examines the way a whole range of artists have used stone in their work, whether it's those who sculpt, paint or fashion jewellery. Names include everyone from Magritte (left), Richard Long, William Turner, to ancient rock carvings.

One of my favourite paintings from the book is The Mountains of Thermopylae, 1852, by Edward Lear (below). While best know as the author of nonsense verse and limericks, he was also a talented landscape painter.

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

Fine dining on Everest

The news that an Everest expedition plans to eat a series of gourmet meals all the way up the mountain was guaranteed to ensure a few headlines. Climbers on the Iceland Everest 2011 will have food prepared by an expedition chef and served on tables with linen, napkins and fine wine. Catalan chicken and boeuf bourguignon are just some of the delights that will replace the usual rehydrated mush. Alan Hinkes, a member of the climbing team, can be heard talking about the expected culinary delights on a recent BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Of course fine dining on Himalayan mountains is hardly a new phenomenon. The 1924 British expedition's provisions included quail in foie gras, 1915 vintage Montebello champagne and crystallised ginger, all supplied by Fortnum & Mason. Going further back, in 1906 Dr and Mrs Bullock Workman were said to enjoy champagne and 'jugged hare in tins' while climbing in the mountains of Kashmir. Meanwhile, on the 1930 international expedition to Kangchenjungu, Hettie Dyhrenfurth, wife of its leader GO Dyhrenfurth, was responsible for managing provisions and equipment. As the Manchester Guardian reported, supplies included "dainties and essentials ranging from caviare and pate de foie gras...to say nothing of a ton or more of chocolate. For liquid nourishment there are, among other things, 500 bottles of Munich beer, cases of whisky, rum, champagne, brandy and different kinds of liqueurs".

A serious amount of booze was also taken on the 1936 French attempt of Hidden Peak - "unnecessary luxuries" as Frank Smythe put it in a review of Himalayan Assault, the book of the expedition (Observer, September 28, 1938). Beyond this though, the review is an interesting account of the changes taking place in mountaineering during the 1930s.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Gunther Plüschow

Gunther Plüschow was the only German PoW to make it home from captivity during either world wars. After escaping a prison camp at Donington Hall, Derbyshire on July 4 1915, he, and fellow inmate Oskar Trefftz, managed to catch a train to London. Newspapers were soon running stories about the men which led to Trefftz's capture.

Plüschow though eventually managed to stow away on a Dutch ship at Tilbury Docks and make it back to Germany. After the war he married and became an aerial explorer. The story of his escapade was published a few years after the war. Manchester Guardian review, June 25 1922:


Plüschow was killed in 1931 in a plane crash while exploring a glacier over southern Chile. His exploits had been largely forgotten until Anton Rippon set about telling his story using documents in German archives. Gunther Plüschow: Airman, Escaper and Explorer has just been published while there's more about him here, here and here.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Adolphus Greely

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

Doom of English forests

The announcement that the British Government is planning a £250 million sell-off of England's publicly-owned forests has been met with huge opposition from many sections of society. While not all Forestry Commission land is to be sold off, and it will keep its role overseeing the country's woodlands, there is much uncertainty (to say the least) over guarantees over access for future generations. The fear is that private landlords may restrict walkers and mountain-bikers coming onto their land.

However, it is worth remembering that the Forestry Commission was created in 1919, not for public leisure needs, but to provide timber for the nation. The first world war had severely depleted Britain's woodlands and towards the end of the conflict, David Lloyd George, the prime minister, thought that the country was in greater danger of defeat through a shortage of timber than of food. The seriousness of the situation can be seen from this Observer report from April 21 1918 (click image to enlarge):


The Forestry Act of 1919 set up the commission with power but without a tree to its name. By 1939 though, it had planted 600,000 acres of new woods and in 1936 the first 'national forest park' was created in Argyll with others being established in Snowdonia and the Forest of Dean before the second world war.

Supporters of the forestry sale point to the fact that the commission has caused much environmental damage in the past, replacing ancient deciduous woods with commercial confiners, while whole areas have been covered in dark green blankets of forest with no regard for the surrounding area. Ennerdale in the English Lakeland is often cited as one of the worst examples of this and Harry Griffin, one of the Guardian's country diarists, was often critical of the desecration of the valley. However, the commission has changed its policy over the decades, a glimpse of which can be seen in this Griffin piece from July 1 1968:

Friday, 28 January 2011

Takeshiro Matsuura

The Daily Yomiuri reports on an exhibition about Takeshiro Matsuura, the Japanese explorer who was the first person to document the inner reaches of what is now known as Hokkaido. He explored the area extensively during the mid 19th century and created a map of the island that included parts which had been ignored by earlier cartographers. He visited Ainu communities and compiled records of the large numbers of the population who had been conscripted for forced labour far from their homes. Matsuura suggested the name Hokkaido for the area.

Artscape Japan has produced an informative article about Matsuura, while The Old Geographer Matsuura Takeshiro, by Frederick Starr can be searched here.

Matthew Flinders and his map of Australia

Australians are demanding that Britain hands back a map of the country drawn by explorer Matthew Flinders in 1804. Often referred to as the nation's 'birth certificate' on account of the fact that it's the first map to refer to the land mass as Australia, it is currently currently kept at the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) in Taunton, Somerset - but is not on display.

In 1798, Lincolnshire born Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, who had studied navigation and cartography under William Bligh joined Royal Navy surgeon George Bass on a voyage around Van Diemen's Land, charting its coasts and proving that it was separate from the main continent. From 1802 to 1803 he circumnavigated the continent aboard the Investigator, filling in many unknown stretches of coast on the charts. Flinders's map, produced while he was detained by the governor of Mauritius from 1803-10, was the first to call the continent Australia. The name was adopted by the British Admiralty in 1824.Flinders died in 1814.

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."

Matthew Flinders's Voyage to Terra Australis can be read here and for a little more information about him see this Manchester Guardian piece that appeared on July 21 1919:

Friday, 21 January 2011

Aleister Crowley and Gilles de Rais

Put Aleister Crowley into an article and you can usually guarantee something of interest. Whether it’s about occultism, the Led Zeppelin connection or his mountaineering exploits, the so called ‘wickedest man in the world’ generates a good tale. Of course many dismiss him as a self-deluded charlatan but there’s no denying, as the latest Footless Crow posting shows, that in his youth Crowley was a bold and talented mountaineer. The blog reprints a Robin Cambell piece that originally appeared in Mountain magazine.

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

In search of James Fitzjames

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.

A whole publishing industry has grown up around the expedition, while marine archaeologists regularly try and establish what exactly happened to the crew. Much has been written about Sir John Franklin, the leader, but there is scant information about other members of the crew, particularly James Fitzjames, the third in command on the voyage and captain of the Erebus. That was until William Battersby's James Fitzjames: The Mystery Man of the Franklin Expedition was published last year.

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.

More on the book can be seen here and here.

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

On this day - January 17 1912: Scott reaches the south pole

The obvious event to mark on January 17 is the arrival of Captain Scott at the South Pole. He may have written in his diary "Great God! This is an awful place," but that hasn't stopped scores of people, particularly over the past few decades, wanting to repeat the famous journey.

However, with next year seeing the 100th anniversary of the race to the pole (Roald Amundsen's Norwegian team got there first on December 14 1911), an unprecedented number of adventurers are heading to Antarctica. According to a report in the New York Times, some people plan to ski the exact routes taken by Scott and Amundsen, while others will travel to the pole by truck. Then there are novices making the trip as well as those making a race of it. Of course you can avoid all the discomfort by being flown there.

I'm undecided as to what to make of this. After all, the number of people actually stepping onto the ice (as opposed to visiting by cruise) is relatively small. A forceful case against all the hullaballoo can be read on Russell Potter's Visions of the North blog in which he states in no uncertain terms that these expeditions "confer only the most artificial sense of achievement".

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The abominable snowman

Tales of the abominable snowman, a human-like, long-haired creature that lives around the snowline in the high Himalaya have long fired the public imagination. Apparently named by a 19th century British journalist, but of course also known as the yeti, countless individuals have tried to capture it - at least on film.

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.

Perhaps the most famous bit of yeti 'evidence' were the serious of strange footprints photographed by mountaineer Eric Shipton while on the 1951 British Everest reconnaissance expedition. This is how the Manchester Guardian reported on the find on December 5 1951:

Incidentally, the piece appeared in the Miscellany column. Alongside it was the following report about walking backwards...