THE MYSTERY OF MALLORY’S WATCH
Author: Thom Pollard
Date: March 8, 2004
Mallory and Irvine sleuths
continue to debate the issue of the watch found on Mallory, and what it tells
about the time of their accident.
May 16, 1999 – 26,500’,
Everest North Face
Stopping to enjoy the view from over 26,000 feet I watched Andy Politz descend
into the darkness. He grabbed a bright orange fixed line beneath his arm
and loped down the face, facing forward, quickly fading from view. Snow
fell gently. A hazy horizon made me feel like I was walking on clouds.
Everest’s north face was as beautiful as I’d imagined it. However, on this
night it felt peaceful, a safe place to relax and take it all in.
Late in the afternoon of
May 16, 1999 Andy and I returned to the site where George Leigh Mallory had
come to rest 75 years before. My oxygen tank had been off for two or three
hours while we searched in vain for the camera. The sun set as we read
Mallory’s eulogy, his body now buried in the best grave we could offer him.
While everything seemed clear at the time I began to feel as if some of the
particulars of the day were starting to fade from my memory.
Shortly after arriving at
the site Andy powered up the metal detector. We hoped it could do what our
eyes couldn’t: pick up the location of Mallory’s camera. I crawled around on
my hands and knees going after anything that made the metal detector blip: a
metal clasp beneath Mallory’s chin held his leather helmet tight; hobnails on
his boot; and, a broken watch inside his pocket.
The minute and second
hands had broken off. The hour hand remained, though, stuck forever between
one and two. Could it be that Mallory and
Irvine fell sometime
between one and two?
Highly doubtful. His pocket was perfectly clean, not a shard of glass to be
found. It obviously meant that the watch was broken, cleaned of its glass,
then placed inside Mallory’s pocket. Curiously, the watch was rusty.
Melted snow or sweat had rusted the watch.
Photo was taken at Camp 5, May 17, 1999 by Thom Pollard.
Andy Politz is holding the watch. He stashed it away shortly after. The
hour hand was never seen again. copyright©Thom
Let it be known that the
watch tells nothing more than this: his watch broke before his fateful
accident. At the time his watch broke Mallory was in good enough condition to
take it off and stow it in his pocket. Early on the morning of May 17 I
photographed Andy’s hand holding the watch with the hour hand still affixed.
Somewhere between there and Advanced Base Camp the hour hand fell off, lost
forever amidst the detritus of Everest lore.
Why dispel one subject for M&I
sleuths without adding another? In the article Face To Face With George
Leigh Mallory, could it be the hole in his forehead was the ‘hole in his
cheek’ of an ‘old English dead’ that Chinese climber Wang Hong-bao spoke about
(Pollard’s photography will be featured in the April 2004 issue of National
Geographic Adventure magazine, highlighting the Viracocha 2 Expedition, an
ancient-style reed ship voyage from Chile to Easter Island.)
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