Could a Frozen Camera Rewrite the History of Everest?

It has been an open question for 89 years whether George Mallory and Andrew Irvine summited Mount Everest in 1924 before perishing, or if they never made it to the top at all. Mallory’s body was found in 1999, but Irvine’s body is still missing, along with the Vest Pocket Kodak camera that he was carrying. That camera could be key to determining whether or not Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay are really the rightful claimants to the first ascent of the mountain.

Although more than half a dozen expeditions have gone to Everest in subsequent years to determine the outcome of Mallory and Irvine’s expedition (a 1999 search turned up Mallory’s body), none have returned with definitive answers. The key to solving the mystery, many climbers say, is finding Irvine’s remains and with it the missing Vest Pocket Kodak (VPK) camera he was supposedly carrying with him on that fateful journey.

Everest historian Tom Holzel believes that after decades scrutinizing maps and photos of Everest’s north face, where the mountaineers are thought to have disappeared, he may have spotted Irvine’s final resting place in a high-resolution picture earlier this month. Holzel has begun mounting an expedition he hopes will visit the site either this spring or, more likely, spring 2011.

Historical Development: Could a Frozen Camera Dethrone Hilary and Norgay as the First to Summit Everest? [Scientific American]

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