Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dispiriting news for our mountaineering community...

Sir Edmund Hillary, known better to his New Zealand countrymen simply as "Sir Ed" has passed away recently. Sir Ed was 88 years old this year. he suffered an injury during another of his innumerable visits to his 2nd homeland of Nepal. Sir Ed and his Nepalese guide Tenzig Norgay became the first humans to stand on top of Everest, reaching that summit in 1953. He was knighted for his effort by the soon to be Queen of England just 3 days after his ascent. Hillary went on to climb another 10 other peaks in the Himalayas, as well as reaching the South Pole as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. He will no doubt be missed. Sir Ed's state funeral will be held in Auckland, NZ on January 22, 2008.

I'll remember Sir Ed for his visit to Antarctica which coincidentally occurred with my 2005 deployment to McMurdo Station. I'll remember his tall, thin but frail frame cast against the unforgiving Antarctic landscape and his subtle but humorous honesty. I was fortunate enough to see him speak to our small crowd at an honorary celebration of the National Science Foundation's successful completion of the "Ice Highway" linking coastal McMurdo to South Pole Station nearly a 1000 miles away. But, rather than lauding the accomplishment with favors and praise when asked by a member of the crowd about how he felt regarding the whole affair, Sir Ed simply stated that it was a ridiculous effort and just plain silly. The crowd erupted in laughter knowing that the project's management was there to hear the shocking statement for themselves as well!

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