American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

A New Map of Mount Everest

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

A New Map of Mount Everest. For nearly 50 years I have dreamt of making a very detailed map of the Mount Everest area, using all the most modem tools of photogrammetry. As time went by, aerial cameras, lenses and aircraft continually improved and so it was lucky that my responsibilities as Director of Boston’s Museum of Science kept me from undertaking this project until after my retirement in 1980. It has turned out to be an eight-year project, beginning in 1980 to 1983 when Barbara and I made three trips to China and Nepal to secure permission for the high-altitude flights over the Nepalese-Chinese border. This work has been financed jointly by the Museum of Science and the National Geographic Society. When completed, the first edition of the map will be published in the National Geographic Magazine, probably in 1988. I have directed the project from the start, ably assisted by my wife Barbara, Dr. Barry Bishop of the National Geographic and Werner Altherr, Vice President of Swissair Photo Surveys Ltd. and now, in the reproduction phase, by Dr. John Garver, Chief Cartographer of the National Geographic and Francis Jeanri- chard, Director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Topography. This work is also being coordinated with His Majesty’s Government of Nepal under the chief of its Survey Department, Arjun B. Basnyat. Overall ground control has been developed from the British, Chinese and Austrian maps of the area, evaluated and adjusted by West German vertical photography taken from the US Space Shuttle in December 1983, flying at an altitude of 243 km (152 miles) under perfect weather conditions. The area was rephotographed by our team on December 20, 1984 from an altitude of 12,000 meters (39,400 feet) with a Swissair Wild RC-10 aerial camera from a Learjet 35 of Swedair/Stockholm. Contouring of the 380-square-mile area on a scale of 1:10,000 has been completed by Swissair Photo in Zürich. Relief-shading, cliff-drawing, nomenclature and all cartographic artwork preparatory to printing are now being done at the laboratories of the Swiss Federal Institute of Topography (Land- estopographie) in Wabern. Printing will be done by the National Geographic in the USA. This National Geographic map will be on a scale of 1:50,000 with 50-meter contours. The ten 1:10,000 sheets covering the same area will be available on special request for research purposes. They promise to be a remarkably detailed base for future work in the geology and glaciology of this complex and remote region. They will also yield a wealth of information for mountaineers. An extremely large-scale map of Everest above 7000 meters is now being prepared in Zürich as a research project of the Science Museum. The whole area goes southward from the terminus of the Rongbuk Glacier to Pheriche and eastward from Pumori to the center of the Kangchung Basin. For all of us involved, this has been a unique and exciting experience in international science and camaraderie: the US Space Shuttle, a US Learjet, owned by Swedair and flown by a Swedish aircrew, a Swiss camera, aerial photographer and laboratory expert, West German space photography, computer analysis of control by Zürich’s ETH, photogrammetry by Swissair—and close collaboration from the start between Boston’s Museum of Science, the National Geographic, Swissair Photo Surveys, the Landestopographie, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal and the People’s Republic of China.

Bradford Washburn

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