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Pete Poston editorial: The Politics of Mallory and Irvine

Posted: Mar 23, 2011 11:10 pm EDT

This past week Pete Poston revisited the Mallory & Irvine Everest mystery investigating the issue of Irvine's sleeping bag.

The series followed last year's contribution by Tom Holzel who, after studying aerial images taken at 8200m, believed he had spotted Mallory's climbing partner. "Now all we need is some boots on the ground to prove it one way or the other - and bring back Irvine's folding Kodak camera," Tom Holzel wrote at ExplorersWeb, openly publishing his findings and images.

Yet judging from the secrecy and intimidation attempts surrounding the search, it's easy to think that finding Irvine and the camera on Everest beats even discovering the God particle in Geneva.

Guided by Holzel's findings (but sans Tom), last May a few teams rushed to a highly classified M&I; hunt on Everest's northern slope. Their efforts failing the mystery continues though, with Pete Poston ending his series in an editorial about the politics surrounding the search.

Editorial: The Politics of Mallory and Irvine
by Pete Poston

Man is by nature a political animal. - Aristotle

1. The Politics of the Search

Politics, of course, permeates everything, and Mallory and Irvine is no different - even though its not supposed to have anything to do with unraveling the greatest mountaineering feat ever if Mallory and Irvine reached the top.

This is, of course, naĂŻve.

But as the stakes get higher, so do the politics. In the last several years, the number of expeditions that have attempted to find the remains of Andrew Sandy Irvine has grown considerably, including those that have been attempted under the radar.

Its become a race to be the first to find Irvine and the camera. Many believe that Irvine is there for the picking because they believe his location is now known with certainty.

Naturally, the value of any recovered film, the VPK camera or an old oxygen rig would be astronomical. The artifacts recovered by the 1999 search expedition were assessed by insurance underwriters at a value of $400,000. Count on at least a million for an image, no matter where it was taken.

Which leads to the slippery politics of artifact ownership.

Who owns the film?

The legal issues regarding ownership of any photographs are highly complicated, and involve British and American copyright law that dates back even before 1924. When Eric Simonson was organizing his search expeditions, he researched the legal issues quite deeply.

Fortunately, the tangled state of affairs surrounding copyright law is well explained on Tom Holzels website (link below). Holzel has posted a previously unpublished article by attorney Dave Green called The Copyright that Almost Was. You can find additional information about Mallory and Irvine on Greens website (link below).

British Copyright Law

In the original law, the person who took the photographs holds the copyright for the life of the photographer plus originally 50 and extended later to 70 years. Since its been 86 years since Mallory and Irvine died, under this interpretation any images are there for the taking.

But later changes to the law stated that if a copyright to an unpublished work had expired (film), but was published later, then the publisher (finder of the film) obtained a twenty five year "publication right".

This law will be the starting point for any legal battles that might be fought if the camera is ever found.

2. The Dark Side of Mallory and Irvine

In politics nothing is contemptible. Jean Baptiste Colbert

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to Mallory and Irvine, behind-the-scenes shenanigans that have done a lot to cheapen an exciting field of research and discovery.

With so much money at stake, some people are playing hardball. For example, there are individuals in the Mallory and Irvine search community who use legal intimidation in an attempt to suppress your god-given right to speak your mind.

To me, people who engage in this kind of behavior are nothing more than intellectual bullies.

Believe me, I know EverestNews.com tried to pull this on me back in 2003 by making claims of copyright infringement, while all the time using - and continuing to use - my Everest history timeline on their webpage, given free gratis!

More examples of the dark side

More recently, respected mountaineers have been lied to their face, amateur researchers were used and abused, and business deals have been reneged on.

The individual behind this publicly maintains a noble air, as if he is virtue personified and never engages in such sordid behavior. Dont believe it - once you get to see how this guy really operates like many others youll end up having absolutely no respect for him.

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. - Ronald Reagan

With apologies, I have to mention that there are some profligate amateurs out there who like to mix their twisted politics with their often incomprehensible research. Australian Phil Summers uses Mallory and Irvine as a soapbox to express his visceral hatred for America. American expeditions are called imperialistic, while apparently unaware of how international these search expeditions have been.

Such nonsense. But fortunately

In politics stupidity is not a handicap. - Napoleon

Nevertheless, Summers continues to post his U.S Imperialism shinola on a sympathetic website that claims that these views are not necessarily shared by the website, but nevertheless continues to spread this through articles and editorials of similar ilk.

Im sorry researchers that preach this irrational bigotry are hardly likely to be rational in their theorizing either.

3. What would Mallory have thought?

If Mallory could somehow be asked today what he thought about all the falderal behind the politics of Mallory and Irvine, Im sure he would have been mortified. There are many famous Mallory quotes out there, and I think this one would sum up his feelings on the matter quite nicely

What is the use of climbing Mount Everest? .my answer must at once be, it is no use.

He probably would have thought the same thing about the politics of Mallory and Irvine.

I cant believe that this man - who embraced the spirit of the free-wheeling political environment of Cambridge in the early 1900s, who freely described himself as a socialist, who survived the inhuman slaughter of WWI, and who had forged his own unique blend of spirituality and mountaineering - would respond in any positive way to the politics swirling around him like snowflakes in a late afternoon storm.

Other than this, perhaps wouldnt Mallory and Irvine want the world to know what happened to them that day, whether they made the summit or not? Isnt the search for Irvine and the camera fundamentally an honorable thing to do?

I believe so. Unfortunately, some of us are losing sight of this.

Pete Poston
Philomath, OR


Thanks to Tom Holzel for editorial suggestions, his ready availability to researchers, and a never-ending passion for Mallory and Irvine.

Check links section below images for related links.

#Mountaineering #Science #Opinion #topstory #feature

George Mallory and Andrew Irvine.
Image by Public library courtesy Pete Poston, SOURCE
Kodak VPK camera.
Image by Bill Yowell courtesy Bill Yowell/Pete Poston, SOURCE
Relicts from the 1924 Camp VI. Not much was left when discovered in 2001. Very heavy equipment by todays standards.
Image by Pete Poston courtesy Pete Poston, SOURCE
The North Face of Mount Everest from the Rongbuk Monastery.
Image by Pete Poston courtesy Pete Poston, SOURCE