Andrew Irvine (mountaineer)

Andrew Irvine (mountaineer)

Infobox Person
name = Andrew Comyn Irvine

imagesize = 172px
birth_date = birth date|1902|4|8|df=y
birth_place = Birkenhead, Cheshire, England
death_date = 8 or 9 June 1924
death_place = North face of Mount Everest, Tibet
occupation = Student at Merton College, Oxford
footnotes =

Andrew "Sandy" Comyn Irvine (born 8 April 1902; died 8 or 9 June 1924) was an English mountaineer who took part in the third British Expedition to the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest, in 1924. While attempting the first ascent of Mount Everest, he and his climbing partner George Mallory disappeared somewhere high on the mountain's northeast ridge. The pair's last known sighting was only a few hundred metres from the summit.

Early life

Irvine was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England to a family with Scottish and Welsh roots. He was educated at Birkenhead School and Shrewsbury School before enrolling at Merton College, Oxford to study Engineering. He was a keen sportsman and excelled at rowing, becoming a member of the Oxford crew for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1922 and 1923.

Irvine is describedFact|date=March 2008 as a compassionate, expressive, shy and creative man of a tall, broad-shouldered, strong and immensely fit physique. His ability to improvise fixes or improvements to almost anything mechanical demonstrated a natural engineering acumen.Fact|date=March 2008 During the First World War, while still a schoolboy, he sent the War Office a design for an interrupter gear to allow a machine gun to fire from a propeller-driven aeroplane without damaging the propeller's blades.Fact|date=March 2008 In 1919, he rode his motorcycle to the top of Foel Grach, a 3000-foot Welsh mountain, where he surprised a couple (Noel Odell and his wife Mona) who had climbed it on foot.Fact|date=March 2008

Everest expedition

In 1923 Irvine was chosen for a university expedition to Spitsbergen, where he excelled on every front. It was only during the expedition that he and the expedition's leader, Noel Odell, discovered that they had met before on Foel Grach. Subsequently, on Odell's recommendation, Irvine was selected for the forthcoming third British Everest expedition on the grounds that he might be the "superman" that the expedition felt it needed. He was at the time still a 21-year-old undergraduate student.

His companion and friend George Mallory later wrote home to his wife, having set sail for the Himalayas, that Irvine "could be relied on for anything except perhaps conversation." He was later to make major and crucial innovations to the expedition's professionally designed oxygen sets, radically improving their functionality, lightness, and strength. He also maintained the expedition’s cameras, camp beds, primus stoves and many other devices. He was universally popular, and respected by his older colleagues for his ingenuity, companionability and unstinting hard work.

The ascent itself took place in early June, and the last day that the climbers were seen was 8 June 1924. Keen-sighted expedition colleague Noel Odell reported seeing them at 12:50 pm ascending one of the major "steps" on the ridge and "going strongly for the top", but no evidence thus far has proved conclusively that they reached the summit. They never returned to high camp and died somewhere high on the mountain. It is still uncertain if they ever reached the summit, and Irvine's body has never been recovered.

In 1933, some nine years after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, Percy Wyn-Harris was a member of Hugh Ruttledge's expedition and equalled Norton’s verifiable record height of 28,126 feet (8573 m). At around 27,500 feet (8380 m), just below the first step, Wyn-Harris discovered Irvine's ice-axe, left over from Mallory and Irvine's attempt in 1924. Irvine's ice-axe was found lying on a rock in an area of relatively gentle gradient and some have since postulated, without definitive evidence, that this position might indicate a possible fall site.Fact|date=March 2008

The Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition

In 1999, Mallory's body was found at 26,760 ft (8,155 m) on the North Face of Everest by the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition. Two details noted when Mallory's body was discovered further fueled the speculation as to whether the pair did in fact reach the summit that day in 1924:

* Firstly, Mallory's daughter has always said that Mallory carried a photograph of his wife on his person with the intention of leaving it on the summit when he reached it. This photo was not found on the body when it was discovered. Given the excellent preservation of the body and its garments, this lack suggests that he may have reached the summit and deposited the photo there.

* Secondly, Mallory's snow goggles were in his pocket when the body was found, indicating that he died at night. This implies that he and Irvine had made a push for the summit and were descending very late in the day. Given their known departure time and movements, had they not made the summit, it is unlikely that they would have still been out by nightfall.

While tantalising, neither of these details is conclusive. What might provide concrete evidence would be the recovery of images contained in the cameras that the men were carrying. Unfortunately, neither of the two cameras that the expedition carried have been found. Many have speculated that Irvine may have been carrying one of the cameras when they died. Experts from Kodak have stated that if one of the cameras is found with film, there is a good chance that the film could be developed to produce "printable images", due to the nature of the black and white film that was used and the fact that it has, in effect, been in "deep freeze" for over three-quarters of a century.Fact|date=March 2008

In 1975, a Chinese climber named Wang Hongbao reported seeing the body of an "English dead" near the summit. He reported the discovery to Ryoten Hasegawa, a Japanese mountaineer, in 1979. However, before more information could be obtained, Wang was killed in an avalanche the following day. Some believe that the body he saw would have been Mallory's, as Wang's bivouac was on a level line with the body he sighted. Others point out his description of the position of the body is not consistent with Mallory, who was face down and whose face was completely buried in scree. Inspired by the importance of the discovery of Irvine's body and the invaluable camera, high-altitude research expeditions spent time on Everest in 2001, 2004, and 2005 but were able to shed little further light on what had previously been known about his fate; speculation and debate continues, as does what is known in mountaineering circles as "The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine."


* Upon hearing of the disappearance of Andrew Irvine along with his partner George Mallory, a family friend wrote; "One cannot imagine Sandy content to float placidly in some quiet back-water, he was the sort that must struggle against the current and, if need be, go down foaming in full body over the precipice"

* Arnold Lunn, one of Irvine's friends wrote; "Irvine did not live long, but he lived well. Into his short life he crowded an overflowing measure of activity which found its climax in his last wonderful year, a year during which he rowed in the winning Oxford boat, explored Spitsbergen, fell in love with ski-ing, and – perhaps – conquered Everest. The English love rather to live well than to live long.’

ee also

* Mountaineering
* Mount Everest
* George Mallory
* Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition


* Peter Firstbrook "Lost on Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine", BBC Books (1999) ISBN 0-563-48712-7
* Holzel and Salkend "The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine", Pimlico (1999) ISBN 0-7126-6488-2
* Julie Summers "Fearless on Everest: The Quest for Sandy Irvine" (2000), (republished 2008) ISBN 978-1-904466-31-4.

External links

* [ Everest News on Sandy Irvine]
* [ Altitude Everest Expedition 2007] , retracing Mallory and Irvine's last steps on Everest.
* [ Mount Everest The British Story]
* [ AC Irvine Travel Fund]

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