THE following is an extract from a letter received from Captain Kingdon Ward, dated 25th May 1933, from Zayul in Eastern Tibet:
'A.K.', or Pandit Rai Bahadur Kishen Singh, came up here from Rima to Shinden Gompa exactly 50 years ago; but no white man preceded us. A.K.'s report and route survey, however, are excellent. It is hard to find a mistake. I have checked and identified every village he mentions; and it is remarkable how little the valley has changed even in 50 years—the villages even have the same number of houses that they had then. The names, the marches, all are the same. Can you tell me who trained A.K., or how I can find out? Was it Lieutenant Harman? Who was Surveyor-General in 1883? I should like to find out something of his history. It seems a pity that all that sort of thing has been given up; it always bears fruit in the end and is well worth the small cost. We have found A.K.'s work invaluable.
A. K. was a Bhotia of Kumaun, born in Milam, the son of Devi Singh and first cousin of Nain Singh, the first 'Pandit' explorer of the Survey of India.1 Sir Sidney Burrard informs me that he was engaged by General Walkef—he was actually enlisted under the name of Krishna, the last and the first letters of which were used as his pseudonym in exploration, ‘A. K.'—and officially trained by Mr. J. B. Hennessey at Dehra Dun; but undoubtedly he received valuable training also from Nain Singh, who brought him forward to General Walker's notice.
The journey to which Captain Kingdon Ward refers was the last of A. K.'s: that long persevering adventure that set the seal on his labours and won him applause throughout the geographical world. Leaving Darjeeling on the 24th April 1878, he travelled to Lhasa and proceeded northwards towards Mongolia. He met with desperate hardships; was robbed by bandits and deserted by one of his companions, who absconded with the transport and everything the robbers had left; in spite of adversity he pushed on and reached Shachow or Tunhwang on the extreme north-west confines of the Chinese province of Kansu (visited in the same year by Prjevalsky's and Count Szechenyi's expeditions), and with his one remaining faithful assistant, Ghumbel, he carried out the work allotted to him. In India all trace of him was lost and hope of his return was abandoned. After six years' absence he returned to India by way of the confines of Tibet and China, crossing the ground now seen by a British explorer for the first time. Sir Sidney Burrard writes to me as follows: 'When I was in the Computing Office in 1884, A. K. returned from Tibet. Walker had then retired and Hennessey used to take A. K. to his house near the Dilaram Bazar every evening at 4 p.m. and take down from A. K. all his notes and reminiscences.'
A. K.'s health was so broken by the hardships he had undergone that he was forced to retire through ill health in 1885. He was presented with the Sanad of Rai Bahadur by the Government of India, received the Murchison Grant, and a gold watch, from the Royal Geographical Society, and the First Glass Medal of the Geographical Society of Italy. He was also awarded by the Government of India the grant of the village of Itarhi in Sitapur district, with a gross rental of Rs. 1,850, a reward that he had the good fortune to enjoy for nearly thirty-six years. He died in February 1921. In the summary of his statement of services, dated 1884, I found the remark: 'Accurate, truthful, brave, and highly efficient.' The extraordinary accuracy of his work and the truth of his reports have been proved time and again by every explorer who has followed in his tracks. To the day of his death his memories of and gratitude to the Survey of India and Government of India were warm and friendly.
Khan Sahib Afraz Gul, who received the Gill Memorial Award of the Royal Geographical Society for 1933, has had a distinguished career in the service of the Government of India, mostly on active service in peace and war on the frontier and trans-frontier of India. Born in 1889, he joined the Khyber Rifles in May 1907. After serving in 1908 with the Bazar Valley Field Force, he was selected for the Military Survey Course at Roorkee, from which he passed first. He was then selected by Sir Aurel Stein as surveyor for his Third Central Asian Expedition from 1st October 1912 to 30th September 1916, on his return from which he was appointed to the Survey of India Upper Subordinate Service, in October 1916.
After a brief period of service in India, he joined the East Persia Survey Party, but was soon selected for special work with the Military Mission under General Malleson, doing particularly useful work north-east of Meshed, when exploring the Kara Dagh. The Khan Sahib was next on duty with the Razmak Survey Detachment, after which he was deputed for survey with the expedition organized by the Vissers to explore and map the eastern glaciers of Hunza. In the following year, 1926, he was with me exploring and surveying the Shaksgam valley and Aghil ranges; in 1929 he was again with the Vissers in the Saser Karakoram and extreme east of Ladakh, while during 1930 and 1931 he was again with Sir Aurel Stein in Central Asia. In 1932 he was on special duty, while on leave, with Dr. de Terra surveying in eastern Ladakh.
Besides a number of war medals and clasps, the Khan Sahib has received a number of awards, the Macgregor Silver Medal of the United Service Institution of India, the Back and Gill awards of the Royal Geographical Society, the Certificate of Honour of the Survey of India, two special Grants from the Chief Commissioner of the North-West Frontier Province, and one from Sir Aurel Stein. He has been received and thanked by the Member for Education, Health, and Lands, in the Government of India, and promoted to Class II Service in the Survey of India Department, for conspicuous good work. At the time of the Khalifat troubles after the War, the Khan Sahib loyally exerted himself in his district to dissuade his kinsfolk from their ill-judged course of action; and throughout his service he has earned the gratitude and admiration of every officer with whom he has served. To the deep regret of all of them, the Khan Sahib has been 'selected' for retirement from the Survey of India, during the panicky regime which prevailed in 1931 and 1932. It was, perhaps, inevitable that retrenchment should bring with it numerous cases of extreme hardship; but surely there can be, no case of greater forgetfulness in the annals of the Survey of India.
There is a tendency among some mountaineers and some continental geographers to give to Mount Everest other heights than the official one, 29,002 feet, which has been in existence since the observations were first computed in 1852. The height that is generally given in the press (for instance, in The Times accounts of the 1933 flights) is 29,141 feet. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it is the purpose of this note to press again for the uniform adoption by geographers of the official height of 29,002 feet. The Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (now the Geodetic Branch of the Survey of India) is the authority for the observations, for the computations, and for the adoption of an official height. Every Surveyor General, every Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey, and every Director of the Geodetic Branch, who has gone into the question, has been definite in stating that the official height is 29,002 feet, and that the time is not ripe to change.
This height was derived from the mean of a number of observations by theodolite from six Survey trigonometrical stations in the Plains of India—-Jirol, Mirzapur, Janjpati, Ladnia, Harpur, and Minai—after applying coefficients of refraction varying from 0-07 to 0-08. Taking no account of refraction, the mean height from the observations worked out at 30,224 feet; applying a coefficient of refraction of 0-0645 to the observations, the mean height works out at 29,141 feet.1 The stations of observation are between 200 and 300 feet above sea-level, and distant from 100 to 120 miles from Mount Everest.
By 1905 further observations to Mount Everest were available, and from six survey stations in the outer Himalaya, selected to be as free from error as possible, Sir Sidney Burrard obtained a value of 29,141 feet, as a mean between the six values, with a coefficient of refraction of 0*05. The difference between the highest and lowest value obtained was only 17 feet. It is obvious that by choosing a different coefficient of refraction a different mean height is obtainable; the coefficients were not, however, chosen arbitrarily, but after taking into consideration various scientific factors. Sir Sidney Burrard was careful to point out that call observations are liable to error; no telescope is perfect; no level entirely trustworthy, no instrumental graduations are exact, and no observer is infallible5; and he concluded as follows: 'We have discussed the height of Mount Everest to show the degree of uncertainty attaching to it, but we do not propose to substitute 29,141 for the long adopted and well- known value 29,002.'
Between the years 1908 and 1920, Dr. de Graaff Hunter, late Director of the Geodetic Branch, made further investigations into the problems of refraction, and also considered the separation of the geoidal and spheroidal surfaces beneath Mount Everest. The height of the mountain as already discussed by Sir Andrew Waugh and Sir Sidney Burrard was the height above the spheroid of reference, the mathematical figure adopted by the Survey of India for the purpose of computing the triangulation. Though Sir Sidney Burrard knew that the actual figure of the geoid, or the surface of mean sea-level, was distorted from the adopted mathematical figure, there were in 1905 insufficient data for him to make even a guess at the separation between the two surfaces, actual and adopted, beneath Mount Everest. Dr. de Graaff Hunter was the first to point out that the true height of Mount Everest should be its height above the geoid. It is this distance that the mountaineer or the airman is concerned with; to reach the summit he has to lift his vile body this exact distance above the geoidal surface beneath Mount Everest, and not above some adopted spheroidal surface. If we had worked out our Indian triangulation on one of Clarke's Spheroids, or the International Spheroid, instead of Sir George Everest's, we should get a different value from 29,002 or 29,141. Dr. Hunter has therefore spent much time and labour in investigating the geoidal surface, and its separation from the adopted spheroidal surface beneath Mount Everest.
In February 1922 Dr. Hunter read an important paper before the Indian Science Congress at Madras, in which he summarized the conclusions arrived at up till then.1 His investigations into refraction had increased Burrard's figure from 29,141 to 29,149 feet for the spheroidal height, but he calculated the separation of the spheroidal surface from the geoidal under the mountain at 70 feet, with a possible error of 30 feet. This reduces the height of Mount Everest to 29,080 with a possible error of 30 feet; further investigations a few years later reduced the probable height to 29,050 feet, plus or minus 15 feet.
There are, however, still many reasons against changing the accepted height besides this one of present lack of finality in the investigation. The topographical survey and the heights of the neighbouring peaks are all subject to the same considerations that affect Mount Everest. If we change the height of Mount Everest from the accepted value, we must also change the heights of various features on the map in its neighbourhood. The heights reached on the mountain by the climbers are also relative to this height, 29,002 feet. The estimated height, 28,100 feet, reached by Norton, Wyn Harris, Wager, and Smythe (see p. 43) is presumably less than 1,000 feet from the summit. Nothing would be more distressing for a mountaineer to arrive at the 29,ooo-foot contour and find that, instead of only two more feet to go, he had a hundred and forty-one! Nor will he, when he has covered the rest of the ground, or the airman, if he lands on the summit, even if they can carry with them accurate scientific instruments, be able to improve on the calculated height.
Colonel Tobin, Local Secretary for Sikkim, communicates the following note on Lama Anden, or Lamgebo, 19,250 feet, the mountain *which stands up to the west of Lachen, at the eastern end of the ridge that encloses the Zemu glacier on the south:
I said in my article in the Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, p. 11, that Kellas is believed to have climbed Lama Anden in 1920. I have been trying to obtain confirmation or otherwise of this statement, but without success. My impression now is that my informant mixed up Lama Anden with Narsing, 19,130 feet. Unless, therefore, the Alpine Club records show that Kellas definitely ascended Lama Anden, it must be considered unconquered.
A very interesting paper on the Sutlej Deodar by Dr. Maclagan Gorrie appears in the Indian Forest Records for 1933. The author gives a brief geographical summary of the Sutlej valley, showing the effect of its general direction on the rainfall at different altitudes in the Deodar region; he then divides this region into three zones and describes the vegetation of each zone in detail. A careful study such as this shows how very difficult it is to generalize when dealing with the Himalaya as a whole, since local conditions play a very important part in modifying any such generalizations.
In the Records of the Geological Survey of India, vol. lxvi, part 3, 1932, Mr. J. B. Auden describes his observations of the snout of one of the right-bank glaciers of the Arwa valley, in British Garhwal. He concludes that there is no immediate danger of the Arwa valley being blocked by the advance of the glacier, but recommends that the glacier should be visited every spring for the next five years, and the distance of the snout from the granite cliff opposite measured.
It will be remembered that this valley was visited by the Smythe expedition in 1931, and a sketch-map by Captain Birnie appeared in the Himalayan Journal, vol. iv, p. 44. This map has been corrected by Mr. Auden, the positions of glaciers 1, 2, and 3 being considerably altered on the new map.
Some alarm and despondency was caused during 1933 by reports that the Shyok Dam had burst again on the morning of the 27th August. It appears, however, that the dam throughout the year remained in a sufficiently decadent condition to permit percolation of the impounded waters. An examination of the 'periodicity curve' of the Chong Kumdan glacier, suggested in 1929 and published in the Himalayan Journal, vol. ii, 1930, is interesting at this stage. So far, the glacier seems to have behaved during the period 1925-33 in almost exactly the same way as it did between 1835 and 1843, as far as our records of those years go. If there is anything in the periodicity theory, it appears that there is no likelihood of a serious flood from the blocking of the valley by the Chong Kumdan glacier till 1969, though there may be minor floods from temporary blocks. The Kichik Kumdan glacier is, however, due to enter the river bed again about 1945.
A flight to Gilgit by five Hawker-Hart machines of No. 2 Indian Wing, Risalpur, took place on the 25th October 1933, the course being practically the same as that of 1932. Risalpur was left at 7.50 a.m. and the planes entered the Indus valley at an altitude of 10,000 feet at Shang about 8.30. The valley walls here rise to about 16,000 feet, but are backed by higher mountains behind. By 8.55 Bandasazin was passed; at 9.15 the flight was over Chilas at an altitude of 14,000 feet. Nanga Parbat was completely clear of cloud. The aircraft landed at Gilgit at 9.35 a.m., after a flight of 1 hr. 45 min., compared with 2 hr. 40 min. taken last year. The return flight took place on the 28th October, the machines taking off at Gilgit at 11.20 and landing at Risalpur at 1.25 p.m. Some magnificent photographs of Nanga Parbat were taken on the way. Colonel F. M. Bailey, the Resident in Kashmir, accompanied the flight.
Mr. G. Seligman contributes the following note, and asks for any suggestions or criticisms:
I originally conceived the idea of improving snow-raquettes while discussing with Mr. F. S. Smythe the difficulties his porters experienced on Mount Kamet when they sank up to their knees in new snow. Mr. Smythe thought that for future expeditions snow-raquettes would have to be taken, but these seemed to me so unpractical that I felt sure they would not help. To walk with snow-raquettes, one must lift the feet clear of the snow at each step, an immense labour; one must keep the feet apart in an unnatural and tiring position, while traversing on hard snow becomes a horrible if not impossible manoeuvre.
In designing the racket-ski my task was to provide something which would enable the feet to be slid and not lifted, but at the same time to avoid a running surface such as that of an ordinary ski, since it would be an impossible matter to allow Himalayan porters to ski down-hill with heavy loads, for serious accidents would be most likely to occur. I therefore conceived the idea of providing plush skins in two parallel sections, the nap of one facing forwards, that of the other facing backwards. To facilitate traversing, snow-blades were provided, these being connected by a shallow transverse blade which further prevents slipping backwards when climbing, or sliding forwards down-hill, but is not sufficiently large to prevent the motion of climbing being one of sliding rather than of lifting the foot. I originally thought of using an Alpine rope bound transversely over the sole of the racket-ski, through holes in it, and while this would give further non-slip qualities I doubt if it is necessary.
I decided to make the racket-ski about 41J in. long with a mean width of about 4 J in., and this size appeared very satisfactory. With an average loaded weight of 12 st. I never sank even into the lightest snow to a depth of more than about 8 in., although on one occasion I went in over the knees without the racket-ski. The front part of the racket-ski is broader than the back, and as you slide it forward it tends to rise to the surface of the snow at each step. Traversing in even the hardest snow, and on steep slopes was no effort whatever. For efficiency this design exceeded my most sanguine expectations when I tested it very thoroughly in the Alps last winter.
What use can a ski of this description have for the Alpine mountaineer? The answer is only a limited one. In those few cases where snow-raquettes are still used, this racket-ski will be of far greater efficiency, but it is admitted that this is a very small field.
But there is another and more important use: for rescue work in snow I consider these racket-ski not only a great help, but far more efficient than the ordinary ski. By reason of their special construction one can climb much steeper with them, and therefore more rapidly than with ordinary ski, and one can manoeuvre much better, which would be of particular value when using sounding rods after an avalanche in cases where the snow boulders formed by the avalanche were not too large. And finally, owing to their shortness and light weight—they only weigh about 5 lb. per pair—they can be carried easily on the back if rocks have to be surmounted in reaching the scene of an accident.
My view, therefore, is that every alpine hut should have a few pairs of racket-ski available in case of emergency.
As to Himalayan work, I submit, with the diffidence of one with no knowledge of Himalayan conditions other than that gained by following closely the fortunes of all the recent British and Continental expeditions, that there am many cases where a contraption of this nature would prove valuable, mainly for porters but also in exceptional cases for climbers. I would very much welcome the criticism of those who know far more about the subject than I.
The experimental racket-ski which I used last winter were manufactured and presented to me by Messrs. Lilly whites Ltd., Criterion Buildings, Piccadilly, London, W. i.
The Editor's attention has been drawn to two errors in Vol. V:
On p. 66 it was stated that 'Major Hadow is a grandson of the Hadow who in 1865 so tragically came to grief during the ascent of the Matterhorn'. This is incorrect.
On p. 164, in the list of appointments, Lieut.-Colonel E. L. Strutt, g.b.e., d.s.o., our London Correspondent, is shown as being Secretary to the Alpine Club. He is, of course, the Editor of the Alpine Journal. Mr. Sydney Spencer is the Secretary of the Alpine Club, and has been for the last ten years.