Mallorys Camera

The Mallory and Irvine Mystery: Prospects for the Camera Film Viability— A New Analysis 
By Philip Summers

Authors note:

For the purposes aiding comprehension internationally, this paper uses the contemporaneous British designated name (Mt) ‘Everest’ to designate the mountain, which is substituted for the official name of the mountain ‘Qomolangma’. This designation is designed merely to convey simplicity in aiding understanding, appropriately relevant to the historical nature of the paper itself. The Author in no form, intends by intent or action any disrespect toward the national or cultural sensitivities pertaining to this subject by concerned persons.

The magnanimity and understanding in this preferment is greatly appreciated.

P. Summers


Kneeling down for greater access, like a supplicant to a higher being and with numb trembling hands cocooned by more gloved layers than oversized batting gloves, the climber at last grasped the old camera extracted from the pocket of poor Irvine, elongated in front of the voiceless kneeling climber, clad in archaic garb like an early cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin the first man in space or Alexei Leonov to actually step into the void.

So to were Irvine and Mallory, brave gentlemen climbing upward into the unknown, a 1920’s ‘spaceshot’ and suitably clad in protective clothing and kit to survive in such a harsh place……1920’s ‘cosmonauts’!

Presciently on cue, the ever present wind died momentarily to signify the gravity of the event.

This rust encrusted device, an ochre coloured metal still looked like a camera, an artefact from another time but where in that moment before the next movement was enacted, the climber was struck by the oddity of how history inculcates in an accelerated manner on one’s mind, cultural images from childhood in a far different country that flooded to the forefront of perception, seeming random thoughts and memories but strangely and cogently related to the frozen man lying beside the climbers knees…

How this poor man from a time of blazers, boaters and bow ties…… where the upper classes were lightly mocked by Wodehouse, where cricket was played in creams…….the sweet sound of willow on leather resounding from a stroke dispatching the ball to the boundary, to a chorus of ” Oh good stroke Sir, a palpable hit” as the opposition bowler strove to dismiss the batsman with every wile and effort at his disposal, while the batsmen stared off the intimidation and deviousness of the bowling with grit and grace, exhibited in the best of them…….

Or like men at sea in battle, remember the plucky HMS Coventry off the Falklands, continuing to fight on with aplomb, north of the chilly Pebble Island, despite the repeated onslaught against them and never saying die with every man doing his best until the end.

Batting for their team mates there too!

Odd how climbing on Everest was so like cricket, batting against the best the opposition could send against one and one’s teammates, facing the first ball and trying not getting out first ball……

(Woe betide a ‘golden duck’), then getting off the mark, then 5, 10, 20 runs as one went higher in stages and building one’s innings, whilst facing the best send down the pitch against one.

A torrent of ferocious seamers to a lulling watchful series of off-breaks……….. until 50 runs, perhaps a century or more…….

The mountaineer as artist Mallory suggested, what about as a cricketer too where like climbing, timing and grace were so important………

1924, where Irvine and the camera came from, a time when Agatha Christie’s Poirot was impressively solving mysteries of fictionbut now Irvine resided in a locked frozen embrace of rock and snow, his mysteries still hidden……..

The upper reaches of Everest always reminded the climber of some old quarry in Surrey or Gloucester where at any moment a sound from the climbers childhood was half expected, a wheezing, groaning sound and from behind a boulder an old battered blue London police box magically appeared followed by an oddly dressed man and invariably, an attractive ‘dolly bird’…….. Invariably turning up at some critical moment in history to make things right!

Not this time though!

The climber recalled Mallory’s penchant for mint cake and the small sample contained in the climbers recessed pocket, along with a more modern delicacy of a paper bag of English jelly babies, just to honour the spirit of the lads from 1924.

“Would you care for a Jelly baby old chap?”

The climber then emerged from that accelerated reverie and then made the next movement with gloved hands, the wind still silent as the moment lingered where the next sound determined the course of history…….

Mount Everest North Face

The enigmatic north face of Everest, bathed in the sun’s low angular rays. Somewhere and obscured on this mountain lies the body of the late Andrew Irvine, believed by some to have on his person perhaps one or more small cameras that advocates hope may still one day yield producible imagery of the Englishmen’s summit bid?

However, known oxidation of Mallory’s kit found in 1999, combined with known environmental conditions extant ‘in situ’ (monsoonal humidity, condensation, temperature extremes etc), more likely conspire to make any camera film (even if still existing), quite unlikely to be viable and contrary to the optimistic assertions by the camera film viability advocates.

2004 photo, with kind permission of Italian Everest mountaineer, Giuseppi Pompili.


Rare today, is any popular article or discussion pertaining to the mystery of Mallory and Irvine’s summit attempt in June 1924,that doesn’t canvas the vexatious issue of future researcher’s perhaps finding one or more presumed camera’s carried by the Englishmen (now assumed to be held by Andrew Irvine as the examination of Mallory’s body in 1999 yielded a negative result), from whence said camera film could later be processed and then hopefully, either yield viable photographic imagery of the pair during their summit bid or perhaps ultimately capture the climbers standing on the summit and so providing definitive proof (or not) of the Englishmen’sprogress and achievements.

The centrality of this matter concerns a contemporary Kodak Vestpocket (VPK), assumedly carried by Mallory and which was reputedly borrowed from fellow expeditioner T.H Somervell before Mallory and Irvine departed for their summit attempt, but which still remains missing after examination of Mallory’s pockets etc. in 1999 yielded nothing of this small pocket camera on Mallory’s person.

1920s Kodak Vestpocket Camera

Fig. 1

A contemporaneous ‘Kodak Vestpocket camera of the early 1920’s similar to that assumed to be carried by Mallory or (now) Irvine. Note the flexible bellows and the bare metal on the exterior.

Copyright image: Dieter Glogowski/Archive J.Hemmleb, Bolzano

Whilst certainly a romantic notion in one sense and at face value quite a reasonably based premise, predicated on the long known preservative attributes of camera film stored in dry cold conditions ‘in situ’ (oft employed by photographers over the years, including reference to some isolated instances of old camera film from the distant past being found in icy conditions, from which later yielded usable imagery such as the eponymous 1897 Andre’e aerial expedition to the Arctic (1) where viable photographic material was found and recovered’in situ’ in 1930), nevertheless appreciable scepticism still remains as to whether this 33 year precedent of the Andre’e expedition (for example) has any relevance or bearing for the (by definition) quite different 1924 British summit attempt of Mt. Everest by George Leigh-Mallory and Andrew Irvine, should one or more cameras assumed to be taken by the pair are ever found ‘in situ’ on the upper reaches of Everest.

The salient concern is, that whilst the issue of the camera recovery and subsequent film processing of the Mallory and Irvine attempt has steadily grown over the decades from wistful hope and conjecture to some quite expansive methodologies being promulgated resulted, subsequent popularisations of said works humanly tend to minimalise the implicit difficulties involved in the ‘recovery process’ whilst simultaneously tending to raise expectations of invariable success in the endeavour.

Indeed, there are still difficult questions that implicitly remain technically as to the entire viability of the premise of ‘film recovery and viability’ from the Mallory and Irvine effort with some basic cogent questions in the enterprise still remaining unanswered and unaddressed!.


– The proposed Irvine (with camera) location high on Everest is promoted incontrovertibly to be by definition, a ‘cold and dry environment’, yet its known today that ‘in situ’ conditions on Everest often become decidedly warm and humid (such as the approach of and during the monsoon season), with concomitant effects on man made artefacts such as extensive oxidation of metal as one manifestation of these environmental conditions.

Therefore, the question is posed and logically follows with elegant inevitability, as to what provision specifically has been made to consider and integrate these environmental elements into the film processing viability of the old paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsive film issue by advocates?

– Further, past expeditioners on Everest have actually reported so called verglas or ‘black ice’ at times high on Everest such as the respected climber F.S Smythe in1933 for example as he descended from 8350 metres.

The question is, if conditions can exist at times to promote verglas and knowing that humidity and moisture can ‘accelerate’ oxidation on metal, what therefore do these effects have, on any of the old paper backed celluloid nitrate film assumed by advocates to be intact within the VPK camera?

Expert testimony from Antarctic scientists (including those who still choose to use film photography as part of their research), attest that even in very cold and dry Antarctic conditions (with relative humidity down to 2% at times), issues of condensation on film are still a concern when the temperature rapidly drops ‘in situ’.

Therefore, even without taking into account the monsoonal effects of humidity and condensation, if Antarctic conditions of low humidity and rapid temperature drops can impact on camera film today, then what do these variables imply to the Everest situation over timespans of decades in relation to any camera presumed to be now on Irvine’s person with its even more fragile paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsive film within?

Mindful that these simple considerations and variables haven’t over time been integrated into the camera film viability issue by advocates, the salient question in this proposition plaintively asks;

– Just how does one reconcile the inherent disparities in comparing the simplistic over-promotions by film viability advocates on the one hand, with the distinct and overlooked variables identified above which indeed attests to significant dissonance in the total equation in question pertaining to the camera film’s viability?

One may indeed conclude, that contrary to past assertions by advocates, in actuality there is really very little prospect for usable 1924 film ever being recovered from Everest in a viable form, such that as a result, future researchers and enthusiasts may simply have to prepare themselves to accept the fact that the entire premise promoted by advocates is a ‘non sequitur’ and that lacking any assumed and incontrovertible photographic ‘evidence’, may therefore have to come to a resigned realisation that this mystery of the two lost Englishmen from 1924 may never, ever actually be solved to a degree of certainly sufficient to salve the burning ‘interest’ that this long standing saga generates in the minds of some!

Indeed, despite quite elaborate methodologies in some film recovery scenarios being promulgated, none can overcome the physical effects of the paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsive film being blanked completely (or partially at an idealised best) by water condensation reacting chemically with thefilm emulsion over the decades during the numerous monsoons!

Even worse is the distinct possibility of fragmented film, disintegrated by the action of cold, humidity, moisture and oxidation mechanically degrading the film over time.

Verily, the implications nucleate toward poor prospects indeed for this entire enterprise, such that no amount of ‘mitigation’ or preparation methodologies suggested by advocates in future can circumvent by virtue of the deleterious environmental effects on the film inflicted by Everest itself over time.

Everest researchers of whatever persuasion would therefore do well to prepare for the distinct possibility that is quite contrary outcome to what has hitherto been promoted by film viability advocates, specifically with the camera film permanently unusable, the mystery of Mallory and Irvine may never actually be solved to a simple degree expectantly hoped for by advocates and optimistic enthusiasts, instead the best that may be realistically achieved is comparison between Irvine and Mallory’s individual circumstances via the vagaries of each climbers state, such as injuries, location, equipment found or kit absent etc……

Solvitur Ambulando!


The inherent mystery of Mallory and Irvine’s disappearance during their intrepid summit attempt on the 8th of June, 1924, is a compelling story that certainly appeals to the human soul on many levels; ranging from the romance of man battling nature in forbidding environs to perhaps achieve an unlikely but fulfilling success in summiting the world’s highest mountain seemingly against the odds, to the technical and even political ‘revelations’ that accrue from such an adventure, with positive and negative voices on all sides.

The Mallory ‘ideal’ of climbing to keep alive the spirit of man, being one example that certainly resonates during this time of decline for Western civilisation.

However for many decades, detailed information on the Englishmen’s exact progress and any clues were rather few; limited to a nebulous sighting by a colleague(Odell) ‘in situ’ en route to the 1924 high camp and the later discovery of an iceaxe on the upper slabs slightly below the North East Arete’. (2)

By the 1970’s however, speculation on the Englishmen’s progress and fate took an unusual turn in that it was proposed that answers may in future be more definitively determined via the finding of one or more of the bodies of the lost Englishmen with the concomitant suggestion as a cause to consequence or agency to eventuality, that the discovery of one or more camera(s) they are believed to have carried (3) could be identified, retrieved and any intact film suitably processed.

The hope being by extension, that any imagery contained on the camera film (if Mallory or Irvine indeed managed to actually take any photographs on their summit attempt) may perhaps be preserved in the ‘cold and dry’ conditions, argued to exist above 8000 metres on Everest.

Anecdotally and in support of the premise by advocates, with old camera film stored in hospitable conditions for some considerable time still known to yield viable imagery, the speculation was that perhaps any camera belonging to Mallory or Irvine could still surrender usable imagery as well, if the salient conditions ‘in situ’ conspired to well preserve the old film.

Indeed by the mid 1980’s, this notion of recovering the camera (a contemporary Kodak Vest Pocket) and developing any extant paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsion film, was increasingly inculcated publically with the publication of a book on the climbers and including a reference to a speculative camera recovery one day as a means to more definitively determine the Englishmen’s fate (4).

This topic was (assumedly) premised in part on the private correspondence between one T.M Holzel (co-author of a book on the subject) and various technical officials working within the ‘Eastman Kodak’ company, such that some technical advice exposited by certain photographic officials within said company was proffered, which was proposed to possibly assist toward the hoped for recovery and processing of any extant film within such a camera, if indeed it were ever found on Everest one day. (5)

These proposals evolved by the 2000’s into a ‘seemingly’ detailed and functional recovery and processing regimen (promulgated in one example) by Holzel (6) and when combined with other proposed ‘processing plans’ since the 1999 expedition that located Mallory and Irvine(7), argued that if reasonable precautions and processing steps were taken, then perhaps one day if ever found a camera gained from Everest ( with Irvine now the only likely possibility extant, as in 1999 the survey of Mallory’s body yielded no camera on his person), may reveal more definitive answers to the mystery via the stored photographic imagery from Mallory and Irvine’s mysterious climb.

Resultedly, popularisation of the Mallory and Irvine story through different media over time (moreso since 1999), has evolved and grown in ‘acceptance’ such thatthe advocated premise of the ‘camera recovery and film development’ has seemingly become an integrated (albeit elaborate) variable in the total equation of the story and as such has nucleated to a stage where the ‘camera issue’s’ basic premise of finding, preservation and viable processing has become a ‘sine non qua’ in the total story(8),(9).

‘A Question of Rust’!

However despite the widespread popular (and seemingly authoritative) acceptance of the basic technical premise surrounding this camera film viability issue, there nonetheless still exists appreciable scepticism as to whether the entire enterprise is as coherent as promoted by advocates of the premise.

Specifically, assuming even if Irvine were to have concealed on his person one or more camera’s, invariably overlooked in all of the arguments in favour of the camera film viability promoted by advocates, are the implicit implications arriving (and invariably overlooked) from the analysis of the artefacts retrieved from Mallory in 1999 which suggest far graver prospects than have been previously considered by camera viability advocates!

Specifically, where perhaps unsurprisingly after all these decades, all of the recovered metallic artefacts were clearly tainted by obvious oxidation to various degrees!

Mallory's Pocket Altimeter


Mallory’s Pocket Altimeter recovered in 1999 front face. Note the oxidation on the brass surfacing including the handle.

Photo provided with kind permission by J. Hemmleb’s private collection 6 days after recovery from Mallory’s body.

Mallory's Pocket Knife


Mallory’s heavily rusted pocket knife with metal blade greatly oxidised.

Photo provided with kind permission by J.Hemmleb’s private collection 6 days after recovery from Mallory’s body.

Mallory's Pocket Scissors and Pouch


Mallory’s pocket scissors and pouch.

Similar to the pocket knife, this item is also extensively encrusted with rust on its surface. Intriguingly found within its protective pouch, the ‘in situ’ environmental conditions above 8000 metres were such that oxididation occured via the air still seeping between the tight surfaces of the metal scissors and the leather pouch within Mallory’s pocket over the decades!

Photo provided with kind permission by J.Hemmleb’s private collection 6 days after recovery from Mallory’s body.

Authors note:

After recovery, it took several days for these artefacts to be taken to the 1999 Rongbuk base camp from where they were soon photographed by J.Hemmleb as depicted.

This description obviates the possible argument that oxidation and rust may have formed on these items after they were removed from Mallory’s person and so oxidation was accelerated in the lower altitudes in the months afterwards.(With cogent argument proffered by J.Hemmleb) (10)

Subsequent to the demonstrated long term oxidation discovered on Mallory’s pocketed metallic items, the logical and inevitable counter-argument to the proposed camera film viability and processing issue suggests, that if oxidation in the form of rust can permeate Mallory’s clothing layers, pockets and pouches over the decades such that metallic items large and small can become rust affected, then what does this evidence imply for Mallory’s climbing associate Irvine’s and his assumed pocketed kit?

More so if one day he indeed is found to have on his person, one or more camera’s?

The question invariably overlooked in all these camera/film recovery and viability elaborations, centres on the alternative proposition that asks;

What if the Vest Pocket camera too is affected by oxidation?

Indeed, what implications are there for the entire viability of this premise of gaining the internal film and developing it, if oxidation already is known to affect ensheathed/covered metallic artefacts over time on Mallory’s body?

Elementary science reveals that oxidation is a product of oxygen molecules reacting with iron based metals (and others) over time, especially in the presence of oxygen and also water or moist air which aids said promotion of oxidation or rust on the metallic surface.

Oxygen levels above 8000 metres are much reduced compared to sea level (approximately 33% on Everest’s summit), which functionally in itself over many decades, results in oxidation.

However the presence of moisture and condensation is known to promote oxidation on Everest as well as at lower altitudes, such that rapid drops in temperature can precipitate said conditions when the air is more humid, such as during the lead up and extent of the yearly monsoonal season!

Revealingly, the ‘Kodak VPK’ camera assumedly carried by Mallory or Irvine on Everest (described diagrammatically elsewhere (5)), is composed of significant percentages of metal (anodised coating or not) on the exterior, however the internal mechanism is largely bare metal and not hermetically sealed (moreso as the retractable ‘bellows’ of the camera is flexible and quite ‘leathery’ in nature) such that deterioration over the many decades of the camera apparatus is a quite distinct possibility, which would thusly allow outside air molecules as an agency to eventuality, to seep into the inner mechanism of the VPK camera as a likely result!

Even more pertinent is the small film cylinder stored internally.

Composed of bare metal, (mere centimetres in length and half in diameter) and with a designed thin film aperture on the cylindrical longitudinal surface to allow paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsion film to spool spiralically, the logical and inevitable question arises whereby, in an un-hermetically sealed camera (more so if damaged or corroded by the elements over the decades since 1924), such that external air molecules on Everest can seep in (as demonstrably occurred with Mallory’s artefacts) and where the film cylinder itself being unsealed and assumedly situated still within the camera and thus equally exposed to outside air contact, just what is stopping this precious and delicate film contained within this metallic cylinder on a spool from also being affected by the elements with concomitant results akin to that known to exist on Mallory’s metallic artefacts found in 1999?

Specifically, condensation promoting oxidation and film damage, even eventual film disintegration if rust formed internally, leaving the small film cylinder containing shards of film fragments all totally useless seems more likely than not!

As stated, rust is widely known to be promoted in moist conditions such as where water and/or condensation exists due to sharp decreases in temperature.

Indeed anecdotally, while the upper reaches of Everest are widely perceived to be amongst the coldest and dryest conditions on the planet, with these very attributes cited by advocates as evidence promoting camera film preservation, in actuality and contrary to these assertions, these very same altitudes actually exhibit at times significant atmospheric humidity akin to that commonly experienced at much lower altitudes.

Representative figures for humidity throughout the course of a year on Everest and its environs for any given timeframe attest to relative humidity levels ranging from between 20% to as high as 70%, which are estimated to exist on the summit itself, with maxima at times even higher at Rongbuk basecamp at approximately 6100 metres. (11)

Thus for any camera in such an environment, exposed to any external elements over the many decades (ranging the gamut of; thermal heating, snow blizzards, humidity and condensation), it would seem reasonable to expect the camera like other metallic items found on Mallory in 1999 to also have a reasonable liklihood of being oxidised and indeed quite tainted by rust both externally and internally!


One revealing example of the conditions known to promote such moisture and condensation induced rust, is well described in another format by the redoubtable British explorer and mountaineer, Everest legend F.S Smythe who first visited Everest during the lauded and innovative 1933 British expedition.

Whilst descending from Camp VI to the North Col for the final time on the 2nd of June, Smythe described the extant oncoming monsoonal conditions as he descended from 8350 metres, such that he was rather surprised to discover and witness a curious state of affairs where a form of rare ‘black ice’ was present on the scree free rocks below their Camp VI site!

Smythe recalls, (12)

“………where there were no screes, the slabs were thinly veneered with ice. It was the only time I had seen this disagreeable condition, known to alpine mountaineers as verglas, above the North Col”.

As a footnote, the perceptive Smythe then attempts to explain his observation of verglas in a footnote on the page.

Smythe recalls (13)

“… increased humidity in the air due to the monsoon current may have been responsible……………………..even at high altitudes the monsson air curent must appreciably increase the percentage of humidity……………………..In humid conditions, wind alone is sufficient to plaster rocks with a thick coating of ice”.

It can now be argued however that cognisant of the representative relative humidity on Everest during the monsoon ranging between 20% and 70% as discussed above and taking the cogent observations and considered ruminations of the redoubtable and respected Smythe vis a’ vis the extant verglas or ice coating the rocks on the upper slopes of Everest, these factors clearly attest to the likelihood of much humidity and condensation developing with temperature and weather variations over days, months, years and indeed decades since Mallory and Irvine expired on Everest with direct and logically incontrovertible implications for the any artefacts carried by Irvine, including the eponymous VPK camera one can suggest!

Indeed in light of these environmental conditions known to exist ‘in situ’ above 8000 metres, its thusly and consequently quite unsurprising that Mallory’s metallic artefacts were markedly tainted by oxidation over time such that atmospheric oxygen levels, albeit diminished at such extreme altitude but perhaps promoted by humidity and condensation in the moist air, over time seeped into the openings in Mallory’s pocket and pouches and affected his kit with various degrees of rust, all a direct product of ‘in situ’ environmental oxidation on his kit!

Therefore, the direct and logical implication of these known conditions and artefacts findings suggest that for any camera still pocketed on Irvine, it too would also expect similar tainting over the greater number of years that this climber has remained lost and extant on the upper reaches of Everest, such that the camera, if not (unlikely) sealed to the elements would therefore, similarly experience moist air seeping into the inner workings, so producing deposits of rust on the mechanism such that the film cylinder within (or alternatively stored in one of Irvine’s pockets for example), would likely be decidedly susceptible to the same implicit threat of oxidation and the vagaries of the numerous monsoonal seasons since 1924, where condensation and moist air molecules would (like the Mallory experience) enter the film cylinder with the fragile paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsion film, coat its surfaces and react chemically with the sensitive film emulsion, resulting in the film to be blanked out and where over time these deleterious and indeed disastrous conditions occurring within to thusly render the camera film unusable and useless!

(Depending naturally on the degree of affliction such as rust deposits accruing within the film cylinder as one other distinct result of these actions)!

‘Contributions from another source — A personal investigation, from Tasmania to Everest’

Evidence supporting this argument, (contrary to the assertions of advocates to the claim that the VPK camera film is perhaps still viable and processable), comes via the investigations initiated by the Author early in 2010, posing the rhetorical question in relation to the assertions of the camera film;

“It this camera film viability claim really valid, indeed is there any evidence supporting or disproving the claim and what can lessons from similar situations tell us?”

To wit, the Author living in Tasmania and of course from due south the next land mass being the continent of Antarctica with the Tasmanian capital Hobart being the centre of Australian Antarctic research and a regular departure point for researchers to this cold and dry continent, it seemed reasonable to consider whether photography in this cold, dry polar continent held any lessons for the historical claims for the old film camera(s) on Everest, as it too is another cold and dry environment?

‘Exchanges with the Doctor’

Enquiries lead to one Dr Eric Woehler of the University of Tasmania.

A noted and respected researcher (ornithology), who is also a very experienced photographer as part of his research in Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic climes.

Significantly, Dr Woehler in an era of widespread digital photography is also one of the (sadly) diminishing number of photographers to still employ and enjoy utilising film photography as an expeditable aid to his work (and perhaps also from an aesthetic sense too).

With experience taking many thousands of photographs using film cameras over the years ‘in situ’ in such harsh polar environments, Dr Woehler was able to add new insights to the 1924 Mallory and Irvine Everest camera film viability issue via a unique, independent and cogent perspective that correlates with the known technical objections (oxidation precedent found on Mallory’s artefacts in 1999) implicit within this subject!

Indeed as has been illustrated above regarding the humidity and implicit condensation promoting oxidation for any camera or artefact from 1924, Dr Woehler confirmed this question, based on his clear experience in Antarctic climes.

Dr Woehler recalls; (14)

“Warm/mild conditions during summer months would melt any ice/snow on/in the camera and would likely spoil the film.

Even the low humidity conditions of the Himalayas at altitude, would not likely prevent condensation/moisture inside the camera in my opinion. I am unaware of any circumstances of a similar nature where a camera has survived an extensive period in the environment to be recovered at a later stage that could assist you in your efforts”.

Dr Woehler also suggests, based on his knowledge of the Antarctic, that even very low humidity such that exists in that environment, (which can drop to even lower levels than Everest), can still impact the delicate inner workings of devices (including cameras and electronics etc), so declining their functionality.

Dr Woehler recalls; (15)

“……wherever there is moisture, condensation is a potential risk, even in the Antarctic where the relative humidity can be 2%, moisture is still present and an issue if temperatures change too quickly”.

Thus from this direct experience of Antarctic photography, even with relative humidity levels as low as an aridic 2%, it can be seen that delicate systems can still be affected adversely when the temperature drops rapidly, as certainly does so on Everest (especially over longer timeframes) where intense sunlight can warm rock surfaces during ‘still’ low wind times, while a short time later incoming storms or sunset for example can lower temperatures to frigid degrees decidedly inimical to human life, with all the concomitant implications that inevitably accrue from such conditions on the camera and its delicate film, (even if cocooned inside a pocket at best concealed by several layers of cloth for instance)!

So with Everest’s relative humidity etc. conditions appreciably higher (as identified above (11)), this experienced testimony from Dr Woehler surely confirms the questionable nature of the assertions surrounding the VPK camera film viability issue, as well as correlating with the known oxidised nature of Mallory’s recovered items in 1999, which suggests that atmospheric oxygen in the rarified air above 8000 metres (augmented by moist air during the many humid monsoonal seasons over the decades), does indeed taint metallic surfaces which by extention, now raises the distinct prospect of similar expectations for any camera purportedly carried by Irvine, even if stored in pockets etc on his person!

Granted, the countervaling precedent of the 1897 Andre’e polar aerial expedition did witness a wealth of recoverable imagery some decades later in 1930 (albeit for much less time than 1924 to the present timeframe for the Mallory and Irvine experience on Everest with the still missing camera (as of 2010)), however its noteworthy to consider the differences between the two expeditions of Mallory and Irvine on Everest and the polar attempt by the Andre’e expedition.

As the Andre’e expedition stored their film and other expedition documentation soon after they were grounded (and sadly died months later in the icy wastes of Svalbard) in a number of sealed copper cylinders (covered over by the elements, mud etc over the decades which in itself mitigated against air seeping within), which effectively prevented exposure to the elements over the decades, such that a significant percentage of the expedition imagery was recoverable and still yields invaluable information on the expedition and their privations.(1)

By contrast, Mallory and Irvine carried (as far as it is known), no verifiable means of storing camera film or the camera itself, save any available extant space in their pockets etc.

Even at best, if Irvine were extra careful (if handed the responsibility of carrying the camera(s)) and finding some innovative means of storing the camera and any used film rolls, such as tight bindings in a pocket or handkerchief etc), it’s still difficult to envisage how over the many decades even extraordinary methods of camera/film carriage on his person could prevent the inexorable impact of the elements, where moist oxygen laden air molecules seep into the pockets of Irvine andonto any kit as demonstably happened in Mallory’s case.

Indeed as the Mallory experience has demonstrated, the practice of pocketing kit has lead (within 75 years to 1999) to extensive degredation of the metallic items on Mallory’s person via oxidation, with resultant rust coating these items and thus confirming that this seemingly convenient method of carriage was quite ineffective in preventing air molecules (laden with moisture at numerous times) seeping into pockets etc. with concomitant tainting of the metal componentry!

Thus in light of the known state of Mallory’s rusted artefacts, the relevant environmental conditions known to be extant above 8000 metres on Everest (as witnessed by the observant Smythe for example) and the expert photographic experience of experts such as Dr Woehler, resultantly delineates the clear and extant scepticism vis a’ vis the entire VPK camera film viability issue!

As a result, it can be cogently argued and openly questioned, whether indeed did the advocates of the Mallory and Irvine camera recovery and film viability (with concomitant processing), ever actually adequately factor these salient variables into their methodologies on this matter previously and if not, then why not?

Indeed, despite quite elaborate proposed methodologies promulgated by advocates of this camera film viability over the past quarter century, simple examination of all published material reveals, that at no point in these elaborations has the question of ‘in situ’ environmental conditions extant on Everest above 8000 metres with (as it now known) known relative humidity levels (with concomitant byproducts of condensation promoted oxidation) ever been properly considered and subsequently factored into the total equation of the issue!

Quite revealingly, its curious that as early as 1984, correspondence to Holzel from ‘Eastman Kodak’ correctly grasped and described the deleterious effects pertaining to ‘condensation of moisture’ on the VPK camera film, as the fragile emulsion would react with the water molecules chemically and so cause the old film to become blanked out, as often happens when film is exposed to moisture induced condensation today as well as in the past!

(see endnotes of correspondence from ‘Eastman Kodak’ officials to Holzel on the 9th of May, 1984, point 3. in text (5)

Oddly, despite seeming being cognisant of the potential dangers of moisture and condensation tainting the old film, the logical implications of this and the needed conceptual leap just wasn’t made, such that (as identified in this exposition) the known degree of environmental relative humidity and by extension potentials for condensation formation on surfaces ‘in situ’ pertaining to Mallory and Irvine and their kit (as described above via the expedient of known environmental readings of artefacts recovered and independent expert testimony from the Antarctic), simply was never inculcated upon these persons in past considerations then or indeed to the present day!

The logical implications do suggest however, that contrary to the assertions by camera film viability advocates, there is a significant prospect that any extant camera (on Irvine) would be quite vulnerable to exposure by these same environmental conditions over the decades (of humidity induced condensation seeping onto and within the VPK (or any other) camera)), such that the fragile paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsion film (which is known to become quite brittle over time) may instead be as tainted by oxidation as Mallory’s artefacts attest, where specifically the celluloid nitrate emulsion film may well be useless, as the forces of temperature and humidity induced condensation steadily conspire to blank the old film, or to oxidise the interior so that what remains is a corroded, rust encrusted interior with the fragmentised remains of the film being quite unusable!

Also it would seem unlikely indeed that natural forces extant could confer any ‘balance’ in the system, such that the rate of film degradation via brittleness (known for old paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsion film) would be ‘offset’ by regular influxes of monsoonal moist air.

Indeed the random nature and deleterious effects of moisture promoted condensation, as stated, would merely hasten the destruction of the film via this method mechanically with the same end result of film quite denuded of imagery!

Moreover aside from atmospheric moisture and condensational effects, the forces of oxidation are always present on Everest (with or without the monsoon laden moist air), resulting in oxygen atoms reacting with the camera’s surfaces and its interior quite effectvely over the many decades Mallory, Irvine and any camera(s) have remained ‘in situ’ (as of 2010 Irvine remains still undiscovered) such that as has been identified in this exposition, with decidedly deleterious effects to be anticipated to impact the camera and its film within!


Despite the unambiguious argumentation against the propects for the VPK camera film articulated above, there is still the possibility (albeit remote) that perhaps Irvine and any extant camera could reside in an obscure location on the mountai, perhaps less prone to the degradingenvironmental effects expounded in this discourse.

One possibility of note is that perhaps if Irvine is sufficiently high enough, less oxygen molecules will impact on his kit and/or Irvine such that the camera may be ‘sheltered’ by the elements in some advantageous fashion so as to overcome the implicit objections expounded above in this exposition.

A possibility concerns one 1924 artefact recovered earlier that was quite untainted by oxidation, namely the iceaxe found in 1933 at 8450 metres by English climbers (later Sir) Percy Wyn-Harris and Lawrence Wager on relatively ‘flat’ rock slabs some 18 metres below the crest of the North East Arete’. (16) (17)

Granted this item is indeed several hundred metres above Mallory and his pocketed rusted kit, moreover as is know, there is a distinct time difference between the two identified locales.

Mallory’s artefacts were found and recovered in 1999, whereas the iceaxe (assumed to be Irvine’s due to distinct marking) was recovered in 1933, barely nine years after Mallory and Irvine passed that way!

With a steel head, the iceaxe lying flat on the rock slabs must have been exposed in the open to the elements including many times when it was covered completely in snow during the nine years it resided ‘in situ’, suggesting that there was ample opportunity for the effects of oxidation to be enacted.

However despite this interregnum, the iceaxe was in fact untainted and in good condition, bearing no signs of oxidation! (17)

However mitigating against this argument is that in 1999, one of Mallory and Irvine’s spent oxygen cylinders (#9) was located and retrieved at an even higher elevation of 8475 metres, composed of’Vibrac’ steel (with high nickel, chromium and molybdenum), this cylinder wedged under a rock (presumably by one of the Englishmen) was markedly tainted by oxidation on its surface, presumably over the 75 years it lay exposed to the elements at that elevation. (18)

Thus at a stroke the question of the untainted iceaxe objection summarily is negated via thecomparison with the #9 oxygen cylinder itself being located even higher (and partially sheltered by the rock around it), than the iceaxe, such that the dissonance between these two items in terms of oxidation, (where both containing steel componentry) can only be answered by the difference in time between the two items recovery!

Some 75 years for the recovery of the #9 oxygen cylinder compared to a mere 9 years for the Irvine iceaxe, tainted and not oxidised on their respective surfaces, with the former artefact (#9 cylinder) exposed ‘in situ’ to the elements on Everest for just as long a time as the oxidised items recovered off Mallory, compared to the short stay for the iceaxe which suggests that the process of oxidation at that altitude is quite slow but cumulative over longer timeframes, decades in fact!

Quod Erat Demonstrandum!

Another possible objection concerns the prospect of any camera on Irvine perhaps residing within a pocket may be also ‘protected’ from the deleterious environmental effects via storage within an enclosing leather camera pouch perhaps.

Respected and observant Everest researcher, Jochen Hemmleb has suggested that in 2001 at the 1924 Camp VI site, explorers found (amongst otheritems), a leather strap that may have belonged to a leather camera carry case, but with the strap removed to reduce bother and/or mass for Mallory or Irvine so as to expedite easier carriage and usage of the camera during their summit attempt. (19)

Whilst this argument is reasonable and indeed a VPK camera cocooned within an enclosing leather case held in a pocket on Irvine’s person is a distinct possibility, the countervaling argument against this proposition is that even an enclosing carry case still wouldn’t be hermetically sealed against the elements such that air molecules could still seep between the camera exterior and the leather carry case interior itself due to the nature and minute size differential between the air molecules and the surface imposition by any leather case onto the camera exterior.

Naturally any degradation of the mooted leather case over time would mitigate further against any seal between the two and it’s also instructive to also consider the example of the scissors and leather pouch or sheath found on Mallory in 1999, such that even with the scissors stored within its leather sheath, the marked degree of rust on the scissors blades was obvious indeed! (see Fig. 4)

Thus if Mallory’s pocket scissors contained within its leather pouch were demonstrably rusted over some 75 years, then its encumbent upon reason to expect similar environmental forces to act upon any camera ensconced within a leather case as proposed Irvine may have carried.

Atmospheric molecular forces in the environment tend to find means to penetrate fissures and interstities when surfaces are involved!

Finally, it’s possible that the exterior of the camera may be tainted by oxidation but the inner mechanism is spared penetration by the elements, with Mallory’s wristwatch cited in this specific instance.

Granted the internal mechanism of Mallory’s wristwatch was still partly functional in 1999, but it’s instructive to contrast the intricate but connected metal workings within a wristwatch to that of the more fragile paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsive film prone to react chemically with condensation upon contact and subject to mechanical degradation over time by environmental forces impacting!

An overall decidedly more ‘delicate’ proposition!(20)

In toto, these arguments suggest a countervaling and more decidedly more realistic understanding of the prospects for any camera film from 1924.

Predicated on demonstrable evidence overlooked previously elsewhere and the inherent dissonance between the known state of recovered artefacts from Mallory caused by environmental forces over time as a function of altitude to the more unrealistically optimistic assertions toward camera film viability promoted by advocates.

Combined also with more detailed articulated consideration of the likely nature and forces bought to bear on the Mallory and Irvine camera equation as articulated in this exposition above reveal a prospect for future investigators in the salient words of Dr Woehler which should;

” …..hope for the best but expect the worst” (21)

Being prepared for the worst outcome beforehand so as to ameliorate the inevitable disappointment when, as anticipated by what is now known via this discourse on the camera film prospects, the camera perhaps one day yields nothing of any use in terms of viable imagery!

Conclusions and Prospects:

While there exists a certain romanticism vis a’ vis the notion of two dashing and intrepid Englishmen of letters and innovation from an earlier era struggling against the harsh forces of nature on the highest mountain on the Earth and gaining the summit with daring and selflessly for ‘Albion’ and ‘the spirit of man’, the ongoing mystery as to their progress has (in some quarters) taken in recent decades, a somewhat unusual path such that idle speculation that perhaps any camera(s) carried by the Englishmen may be found one day and stillyield useful imagery, perhaps preserved due to the ‘cold and dry’ conditions implicit at that altitude.

This conjecture has lead subsequently to a number of apparent ‘authoritative’ expositions on the subject that while seemingly exhibit reasonable, scientifically viable confirmation of the basic premise and concomitant methodologies for the VPK camera film recovery (with usable imagery implicit), nevertheless closer scrutiny and independent analysis reveals that all methodologies exhibit deleterious and underlying weaknesses in their elaborations, such that these shortcomings have consistantly remained unaddressed in said elaborations (whilst paradoxically being acknowledged as part of the preventative processing methodology), specifically concerning the role of ‘in situ’ environmental effects acting on and within the camera with its film, with the logical and inevitable results of oxidation and degradation resulting and demonstrably affirmed by the results gained from Mallory’s recovered artefacts!

Displaying human frailty by uncritical repetition, the mythos of the camera recovery and processing has steadily nucleated from wistful conjecture on the part of some writers and advocates, to almost embellished axioms which invariably tend to minimise or omit the implicit and incontrovertible factors that by contrast conspire to degrade the camera and film over an extended timeframe.

Also contributing to the milieu is the continual unquestioning nature of observers, perhaps impressed by the seeming veracity of the advocates of camera/film viability’s published ‘authority’, methodologies and perceived ‘standing’ in this pursuit!

Mindful that there is no limit to human credulity, it nevertheless is revealing that no comparative and implicational analysis of Mallory’s recovered artefacts from his person has been done over time, specifically in relation to the effects on the VPK or any other camera and contained film by the environmental elements on Everest over time, of which Mallory’s artefacts clearly demonstrate!

Indeed contrary to past assertions, the environment on the upper reaches above 8000 metres on Everest isn’t conducive to artefact preservation over the long term, as the surface oxidation on the 1924 kit markedly attests.

Certainly any casual student of Everest history would note the effects of the regular monsoon, with past climbers (such as the observant F.S Smythe) even noting the effects of greater humidity extant where verglas actually formed a short distance below an altitude of 8350 metres, a phenomena he considered quite noteworthy at the time!

Indicative clearly of humidity and by implication the distinctly possible formation of condensation from marked temperature drops, with concomitant oxidation invariably resulting on any metallic surface extant.

Measurements’in situ’ in more recent times confirm these earlier observations, with relative humidity levels on the upper reaches of Everest touching 70%, where even in the oxygen deprived atmosphere that exists in that environment over the decades, it would be quite surprising indeed if oxidation didn’t occur!

Whilst there are rare instances over lesser timeframes where specific storage methods have been enacted to preserve camera film (such as the aerial Andre’e polar expedition of 1897), it’s quite unlikely such provisions were made by Mallory and Irvine to ameliorate the effects of the high altitude environment on carried kit (as Mallory’s pocketed items attest) and as such its indeed distinctly likely that any items recovered from Irvine in future, including any camera(s), will verily display similar tainting externally and internally by the corrosive forces extant in that environment over time one would anticipate.

Independent testimony in an unrelated field also operating in ostensible ‘cold and dry’ conditions, suggests that the ever present forces of oxidation (promoted especially by humidity and concomitant condensation), conspire to degrade any metallic artefact where the internal mechanism is just as vulnerable to these forces as any other surface, with direct and deleterious implications specifically for the delicate paper backed celluloid nitrate emulsive film assumed to be with the VPK camera (or stored elsewhere on Irvine’s person as is currently assumed).

In conclusion, bearing in mind all these implications and overlooking the overly optimistic claims by others elsewhere, in all liikelihood if any camera(s) with film are ever found on the person of Irvine in future, researchers will likely discover, to some chagrin, an oxidised device where any aperature that allows air molecules access to the mechanism will have likely tainted the internal workings too, which leads invariably to the film cylinder also being oxidised and indeed where any further aperature (designed or corroded over time) on the film cylinder surface, will thusly result in the delicate film itself to be far from a preserved state and indeed likely fragmentised (with a distinctive rattling sound where movement causes the fragments to be put into motion for the first time since 1924) or at best rendered blank by the repeated taint of moist air leading to condensation affecting the film chemically and ultimately resulting in an entirely nugatory exercise for the film recovery or ‘viability’!

Evinced from the evidence and logic in this disquisition, it’s possible to explore the implication of this work and make the simple prediction that if in future, the body of the late Andrew Irvine is ever found high on Everest, simple visual examination of any camera’s exterior found on his person will readily attest to the nature of any film still contained within, by virtue of the fact that the ‘harder’ camera exterior is more robust than the smaller and more fragile paper backed celluoid nitrate emulsive film.

So, if the camera’s exterior is tainted in some form by rust on any metal surface then, based on past experience and reason, the film also is likely tainted by said oxidation too with implicit implications readily apparent!

If so, then its most unlikely that the film will be processable due to the rust quite likely being promoted by humid air bearing condensation induced by temperature drops ‘in situ’ over decades such that the old paper backed celluoid nitrate emulsion film will be chemically damaged, blanked and useless!

An example of human credulity, coupled with excessive optimism over time seemingly having triumphed over reality, is revealed ultimately to be the illusion it always was in this pursuit of the VPK camera and its film viability ‘canard’.

Indeed it can be argued that, unwilling to be accepted by some who invariably subscribe to untenable simplication for ‘answers’ as a substitute for proper reasoning based on logic and evidence as opposed to assertions and opinion, that if as predicted in this exposition, the entire ‘viable’ camera/film premise is actually a long standing ‘canard’ perpetuated over a quarter century.

It was always an obvious possibility that should have been looked at and realised sooner!

Indeed it may be, that the mystery of Mallory and Irvine’s climb may actually never be adequately solved in its entirety and quite contrary to what some hope for in obtaining one day a definitive final answer that is sought to solve this mystery.

One must be prepared for that distinct possibility!

Expect the worst, be realistic, follow where the evidence leads and don’t be inhibited by ‘positive’ thinking.

Indeed, researchers in the future, predicated upon the evidence and argumentation in this discourse, would do well to save time, effort, resources and (potentially) lives in avoiding pursuit of this 1924 camera recovery issue and instead divert the resources into this endeavour toward a more productive Everest expedition attuned to forensic comparison of Irvine’s state in relation to Mallory’s experience.

This re-prioritisation in methodology would yield far more to a better understanding of the mystery of these lost climbers, as opposed to a futile exercise in camera recovery which will likely reveal nothing of value and is simply a diversion and a folly.

Unlike the excesses of humanity, reality can’t be fooled!

Nous avons change’ tout cela……….


……..the climber’s hands moved, bringing the camera closer to the face, windless, was there a sound coming from within the camera?

Close to the ear, yes the sound was present whilst in motion, like a faint rattle.

A sound of a child’s toy rattle!

The meaning became clear and as distinct as the wafting mists streaming across the Arete’ above that had cleared momentarily.

Were loose items inside the camera, ice?, scree?, almost like grains of rice rattling within when the camera moved?

At a stroke the climber was struck by sudden sinking feeling as clarity prevailed and as had been feared in a growing and new appreciation of the matter, it was indeed the film inside but broken, fragmentised and utterly useless!

Again the childhood memory lept to the mind’s eye.

Warm summer classroom, afternoon sunlight streaming in the windows, pouring over Keats and the Bard…

Tiny motes of dust blown off old English text books and classics, dancing in the sunlight, illuminated like tiny insects around a shaft of light.

Akin to the tiny fragments now rattling inside that bloody camera!

Decades of time and the elements had indeed done their work well, the rusty surface of the camera bore testiment externally to that which inwardly had occurred so long ago as well.

Unsealed, the elements had crept in, moist air, condensation, irrevokable damage!

The game was finally up, it wasn’t a ‘once in a life time moment’ as had once been claimed, indeed it had always been a lost cause as the climber recalled in a prophetic paper written that predicted just this outcome…….

The wind suddenly resumed, mockingly laughing at the deluded folly of man who thought that Everest would yield so passively……

Forceful in nature via wind and snow but subtle and just as dangerous where time and the thin air itself had worked its damage, invisibly and imperceptively to the eyes of feeble man, where of course the fragile nature of the film itself had assisted the oxidising forces in this environment.

The climber looked up toward the summit, the triangular apex resembled a squat island lighthouse, splendid, immovable and mysterious like Flannen Isle in the Outer Hebrides, a place that was also home to a mystery even before man dared to try and tread the unsullied slopes of the upper reaches of Everest……where three men had vanished and the unsettling stillness residing inside the lighthouse etched into the souls of the later investigators who tried to fathom that mystery, another tragedy……

The ‘lamp room’ of the summit glowered, always catching the eye and the imagination as it had done to the men of 1924……

‘Another bloody day’ Smythe used to say, repeatedly as he followed in Mallory and Irvine’s steps up and down the curtain of ice and rock that made up part of Everest.

He was right the climber reflected, Everest seldom yielded her secrets, ‘Another bloody day’ indeed, but the climber then looked down at poor Irvine.

He didn’t retreat, like Mallory he held his nerve, ”Must press on old boy, topping day what’!

Fighting on like HMS Coventry off the Falklands, with verve and never letting the side down.

‘Batting for England’ here on Everest, elegant cover drive here, square cut there, ‘Oh good stroke Sir’, cut grass and pavilions, oak trees and ‘flappers’ watching the game, seductively sipping lemon tea……

‘Must press on old boy’.

A common sentiment in that time, but perhaps that sentiment the climber recalled from childhood reading about Irvine’s day could assist here as well.

Modern day ‘Hercule Poirot’s’ now had the chance to finally answer the question of Mallory and Irvine now the canard of the camera film issue was finally removed from the equation.

The comparison of Irvine’s condition and artefacts with Mallory’s would be the only and best way forward now as it should have been from the outset……


This paper is dedicated to the memory of two ‘giants’ of Everest lore; the peerless F.S Smythe who in the 1930’s repeatedly and with aplomb attempted Everest whilst perceptively preserving his impressions for the benefit of later readers of his appreciated exploits. A true gentleman of the peaks!

Also, a ‘real photographer’ at altitude, the highly respected Sir Percy Wyn-Harris, who pioneered a new route (with his estimable companion Lawrence Wager), discovered a vital clue as to Mallory and Irvine’s fate and decades later articulated with the steady voice of reason and grace, lessons and sound argument for the benefit of lesser mortals in this research field that both clarify and effectively refute the great swathe of nonsense propagated on the subject in some quarters.

A case study of intellect, wit and soundness.

A gentleman still remembered and respected, long may he be so!.


(1) See ‘Recovering the visual history of the Andre’e expedition: A case study in photographic research’, T.Martinsson,

Birmingham City University

(2) For a more detailed account of the salient background to the story see;

‘Tatort Mount Everest’: der fall Mallory by Jochen Hemmleb, 2009, Terra Magica, Munich, Germany(German language mostly)

‘Detectives on Everest’ by Jochen Hemmleb, 2002, The Mountaineers books, Seattle, USA

‘Ghosts of Everest’ by Jochen Hemmleb, 1999, The Mountaineers books, Seattle, USA

(3) ‘Mountain’ journal, No.17, 1971, Tom Holzel, p.35

(4) The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine, Tom Holzel & Audrey Salkeld, 1986, Jonathan Cape Ltd, London Great Britain,P.2

(5) See endnotes 1984 correspondence re: ‘Eastman Kodak’ to Holzel

(6) Frontpiece


(8) Representative of such expositions include;


(10) Personal communication with Author, July 2010

(11) Representative weather reports for typical years 2002, 2003, 2004

(12) ‘Camp Six’, F.S Smythe, 1937, Hodder & Stoughton, London, Great Britain- 2000 reprint in ‘The Six Alpine/Himalayan climbing books. P.637

(13) Ibid.

(14) Personal communication with Author via email 17 April 2010.

(15) Personal communication with Author via email 23 April 2010.

(16) Proffered by noted Everest researcher Jochen Hemmleb in personal communication with Author via email 7 September 2010.

(17) ‘Everest 1933’, H.Ruttledge, Hodder and Stoughton, Great Britain, p.151

(18) ‘Ghosts of Everest’, by Jochen Hemmleb 1999, The Mountaineers books, Seattle, USA, P.154 &

‘Tatort Mount Everest: der fall Mallory, by Jochen Hemmleb, 2009, Terra Magica, Munich, Germany, p.110

(19) Personal communication with Author via email 7 September 2010

(20) ‘Ghosts of Everest’, by Jochen Hemmleb 1999, The Mountaineers books, Seattle, USA, p.162

(21) Personal communication with Author via email 10 May 2010.


The Author wishes to express his sincere thanks and appreciation to the noted and respected Antarctic scientist, writer and photographer, Dr Eric Woehler of the University of Tasmania.

The Gentleman’s friendly, honest and insightful expertise in the field of film photography in extreme conditions has been instrumental to the codification of this paper.

The Author is most appreciative of the Doctor’s kindly assistance, analysis and integrity.

Thanks also to internationally respected Everest climber, explorer and thinker, Giuseppe Pompili for his ongoing and most generous permission to utilise his illustrative photographs, which so capture the poetry and reality of Everest’s upper reaches.

A mountaineer of skill and imagination who is well represented via his photographic skill.

A special thanks to the internationally respected and ‘nulli secondus’ Everest researcher Jochen Hemmleb for vital photographic assistance from his personal collection as well as important theoretical soundings and advice during the formulation of this paper.

This esteemed friend and gentleman continues to lead international research into Everest history with great intelligence, selfless inclusion, friendliness and appreciable humour! (Also saving the Author quite a few quid as well via his kindly proffered illustrative photo’s!)

In addition, the Author wishes to thank a cadre of international friends and colleagues specifically; Chris Peacock, Thomas Rost, Gareth Thomas and the ever helpful Colin Wallace for their ongoing friendship, discussions, advice and independent, objective and perceptive analysis.

Independent researchers amongst the best in the world, well respected and regarded by the Author.

Appreciation is also expressed to the following friends, colleagues and wellwishers for their interest, support, discussions, insights and advice;

Dr Ajay Dandekar, Katie Sarah and Duncan Chessell (greatly respected mountaineers), Jeremy Wyn-Harris, Edgar Schuler, Stuart Holmes, Maxine Willett, Paul Kingsnorth, Jackie Fox, Chris O’Loughlin, David Goodram, Mark Allison, James Mole, Kevin and Jenny Turner, Anne Nalder, Barbara Ludwig, Jan Schoof und Katrin Taube.

The Author is particularly thankful to the kind, helpful, friendly and ever efficient staff at the State Library of Tasmania, Reference library. especially;Jacek Piotrowski for photographic expertise, important advice and support, Chrissy Shearer, Erica Noakes, Emma-Jean Gilmour and Anne Mattay.

Without the facilities and the always capable staff of the library, this paper couldn’t have been realised.

Philip Andrew Summers

Hobart, Tasmania


Postscript: The Author welcomes appropriate correspondance and discussion on this topic. He can be contacted at