May 31, 2007

To Boldly Read About Where Someone Else Has Gone Before

This is coo-el. The UK Telegraph's Tim Butcher has retraced the 1877 exploration of the Congo Basin by Henry Morton Stanley and, in order to promote his book on the subject, has written up a series of articles about it.

I've got a copy of Stanley's journal of his original expedition, although it's been some time since I last read it. My recollection is of Stanley's party being chased by one hostile local tribe after another and only reaching the coast by the skin of their teeth. I gather from skimming Butcher's account that things aren't much better there now, and in fact are arguably worse.

I suppose I've been seized again by the exploration genre bug, as periodically happens. As I mentioned before, I'm currently reading Sir Richard Burton's account of his explorations of East Africa in 1857. In addition, while visiting Mom over Memorial Day, I filched her copy of this:


The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine by Tom Holzel and Audrey Salkeld. Not so much an exploration book as a kind of forensic history, this book sets out the latest evidence and theories about whether or not George Mallory and Andrew Irvine reached the summit of Mt. Everest in 1924 before dying on the mountain. If they did, then they beat Sir Edmund Hillary by about thirty years. Apparently, there is a great deal of extremely intriguing evidence that could cut either way and a rayther large number of extremely partisan advocates on both sides.

Frankly, I don't know anywhere near enough to offer an opinion yet on whether Mallory and/or Irvine were successful. For what it's worth, though, Robert Graves (author of I, Claudius and other historickal novels) thought so. A pupil of Mallory's and fellow climber, Graves gave it as his opinion (in Goodbye to All That) that Mallory did indeed reach the summit but in vigorously celebrating the feat, did not leave himself enough strength to get down safely.

Posted by Robert at May 31, 2007 12:09 PM | TrackBack