Go­ing ape in the snow


were the re­sults of the 1954 Daily Mail-backed yeti ex­pe­di­tion? THE idea of a yeti or Abom­inable Snow­man first cap­tured the na­tion’s imag­i­na­tion when Col C. K. Howard-Bury, leader of the 1921 Ever­est Re­con­nais­sance Ex­pe­di­tion, stum­bled across some un­usual tracks in the snow at 22,000ft. His Sher­pas de­clared it to be the Me­toh Kangmi or ‘ Abom­inable Snow­man’.

In 1951, moun­taineer Eric Ship­ton ig­nited the world’s cu­rios­ity when, re­con­noi­ter­ing the foothills of the Hi­malayas, he took a photo of the now leg­endary Abom­inable Snow­man foot­print on the Men­lung glacier. Ex­cite­ment in­creased fur­ther when in­trepid Daily Mail jour­nal­ist Ralph Iz­zard pub­lished his book The In­no­cent On Ever­est.

It de­tailed Sir John Hunt’s suc­cess­ful 1953 Ever­est Ex­pe­di­tion, but in­cluded the au­thor’s own side in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the yeti, in which he in­di­cated that be­lief in the crea­ture was as strong as ever among the Sher­pas. In­ter­est in the crea­ture was so strong that the Daily Mail funded its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Iz­zard led a team of re­spected sci­en­tists and moun­taineers, in­clud­ing bi­ol­o­gist and an­thro­pol­o­gist Charles Stonor, nat­u­ral­ist Ger­ald Rus­sell (who had as­sisted in the cap­ture of the first live panda), In­dian zo­ol­o­gist Dr Biswamoy Biswas, cam­era­man and moun­taineer Tom Sto­bart and sci­en­tist/moun­taineer John Jack­son, all sup­ported by 200 Sher­pas.

The sci­en­tists scoured the Hi­malayas for six months and sent reg­u­lar up­dates to the Mail. Sadly, they didn’t dis­cover a yeti, though they did find and record many uniden­ti­fi­able foot­prints, most of which have now been at­trib­uted to ero­sion and widen­ing of an orig­i­nal foot­print by wind and par­ti­cles.

Lo­cals of­fered sev­eral relics, most of which turned out to be an­i­mal hides and bones, and the team was given ac­cess to the fa­mous Pang­boche monastery yeti scalp.

The hair of the scalp was an­a­lysed by Pro­fes­sor Fred­eric Wood Jones, an ex­pert in anatomy who con­cluded that the hairs on the Pang­boche scalp weren’t from a scalp, but prob­a­bly came from the shoul­der of a coarse-haired hoofed an­i­mal.

On his re­turn, Tom Sto­bart, writ­ing in the Mail on whether the Abom­inable Snow­man ex­isted, wrote: ‘When we left, we knew al­most noth­ing about the sub­ject — now we know a great deal, but we can still give no more than a guess.

‘I must con­fess when slog­ging end­lessly up rocky moun­tain sides I had fre­quently thought the wretched crea­ture was a myth — but that isn’t be­ing in a log­i­cal frame of mind, be­cause not find­ing this crea­ture doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Ac­tu­ally we haven’t found a sin­gle piece of ev­i­dence against the snow­man — and quite a lot for it.’

This rather un­sci­en­tific view was shared by the rest of the team. The full story of the ex­pe­di­tion can be found in The Abom­inable Snow­man Ad­ven­ture by Ralph Iz­zard.

Frank Johns, Bris­tol.

Ice­landic sagas tell how the Vik­ings sailed from Ber­gen on the coast of Nor­way to Ice­land, con­tin­u­ing to Green­land and prob­a­bly New­found­land in the Amer­i­can con­ti­nent. How did they nav­i­gate th­ese long voy­ages given the bad weather and low vis­i­bil­ity of those high lat­i­tudes? THE Ice­landic sagas tell of Vik­ing ex­plo­ration of the North At­lantic from Nor­way right the way across to Amer­ica, with Vik­ing pres­ence in Amer­ica con­firmed by arche­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tions at L’Anse aux Mead­ows in New­found­land.

Nav­i­ga­tion was a chancy mat­ter, as the Vik­ings had nei­ther com­pass nor sex­tant. When­ever pos­si­ble, they stayed within sight of land.

Us­ing the ‘North At­lantic step­ping stones’ of Shet­land, Faroe, Ice­land, Green­land, Baf­fin Is­land and Labrador, it is pos­si­ble to cross the ocean only briefly out of sight of land, es­pe­cially with the clearer vis­i­bil­ity of a less pol­luted age. The Vik­ings were familiar with cloud pat­terns which form over land, and were able to de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of land even when it was just over the hori­zon.

They made in­tel­li­gent use of the stars as di­rec­tion fin­ders and they had some novel aids too. For ex­am­ple they dis­cov­ered that the raven, a land bird, when re­leased from a ship at sea, will fly up un­til high enough to see land, then fly for that land. If no land is in sight, it will re­turn to the ship.

The re­al­ity is that Vik­ing nav­i­ga­tion was rudi­men­tary and the Vik­ings of­ten got lost. It is all the more re­mark­able with th­ese dif­fi­cul­ties that they man­aged to take their open long­ships across the At­lantic — real acts of brav­ery and faith.

Dr Graeme Davis, Hove, East Sus­sex.

the de­tec­tive se­ries Columbo, his wife is of­ten men­tioned but never makes an ap­pear­ance. Like­wise, in Keep­ing Up Ap­pear­ances, Hy­acinth’s son Sheri­dan is of­ten on the phone but never on screen. Has any other char­ac­ter on a long-run­ning se­ries never ap­peared in it? FUR­THER to the ear­lier an­swers, the first un­seen char­ac­ter in TV drama is be­lieved to have been Gla­dys Pot­ter, the sub­ject of con­stant com­plaints from her hus­band Pete in the U.S. television se­ries De­cem­ber Bride, which ran from 1954 to 1959.

Pete Pot­ter was played by Harry Morgan, best known for his role as Colonel Pot­ter in the long-run­ning M*A*S*H. How­ever, in a spin-off called Pete And Gla­dys which ran from 1960 to 1962, the au­di­ence did see Gla­dys be­ing played by Cara Wil­liams.

Ian MacMil­lan, Paign­ton, Devon.

Latin, MY favourite un­seen char­ac­ter was The Gen­eral from the car­toon Das­tardly And Mut­t­ley In Their Fly­ing Ma­chines. This was a spin-off from The Per­ils of Pene­lope Pit­stop and based on Those Mag­nif­i­cent Men In Their Fly­ing Ma­chines.

It fea­tured Das­tardly, ac­com­pa­nied by Mut­t­ley, re­tired from the races and now in the army, con­trol­ling the Vul­ture Squad, whose one task is ‘to stop the pi­geon’ — the pi­geon in ques­tion be­ing Yan­kee Doo­dle Pi­geon, a car­rier-pi­geon.

The Gen­eral is Das­tardly’s su­pe­rior, who al­ways speaks to Das­tardly on the tele­phone. He is al­ways able to reach Das­tardly by phone even when Das­tardly is fly­ing with ran­domly ap­pear­ing tele­phones.

The tele­phones are al­most al­ways of the old-fash­ioned ‘can­dle­stick’ de­sign, and of­ten de­liv­ered to Das­tardly by paradrop. They also oc­ca­sion­ally ex­plo­sively self­de­struct when the Gen­eral hangs up. The Gen­eral is, how­ever, not quite un­seen — when he is up­set, his uni­formed arm oc­ca­sion­ally emerges from the tele­phone ear­piece to grab Das­tardly round the neck.

Michelle Fleet­wood, Barns­ley.

is the trans­la­tion of the

and Gaelic, words on the plaque to William Wal­lace on the wall of St Bartholome­w’s Hospi­tal in west Smith­field, Lon­don? FUR­THER to the ear­lier an­swer, the me­mo­rial plaque to William Wal­lace was ac­tu­ally un­veiled in 1956, prov­ing that while there has been a very re­cent surge of in­ter­est in Wal­lace’s life, his sta­tus as a na­tional hero goes way back.

Matthew Ad­cock, Lon­don.

web­sites sug­gest that it’s pos­si­ble to use wa­ter to sup­ple­ment petrol in cars. Does this ac­tu­ally work? FUR­THER to the ear­lier an­swer, the ad­di­tion of wa­ter to petrol in an at­tempt to in­crease oxy­gen in an I.C. en­gine cylin­der was most likely tried out be­fore World War II.

In about 1943 the Amer­i­can Repub­lic Thun­der­bolt, the mis­named pur­suit air­craft, saw ser­vice in al­lied air forces. The mas­sive 18 cylin­der ra­dial en­gine’s power was in­creased by wa­ter in­jec­tion and must have been one of the first pro­duc­tion en­gines to in­cor­po­rate a tur­bocharger.

Norman T. Good, Castle­town, Isle of Man.

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