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.