Tag Archives: history

The Ascent of Nanda Devi by H W Tilman

Here is one of the most prized books in my library of mountaineering literature; a signed first edition of The Ascent of Nanda Devi by H W Tilman, in its dust jacket. I bought it on Ebay for about $20 a few years ago.

Nanda Devi

A signed first edition of this book by one of my heros, Bill Tilman

The book is signed not by Bill Tilman but by Charles Houston, the leader of the successful 1936 expedition. At the time Nanda Devi at 7816m, was the highest mountain that has ever been climbed.

Nanda Devi

This first edition is signed by Charles Houston, the expedition leader of the first successful expedition in 1936

I grew up in the town of naini Tal in the Indian Himalayas within sight of Nanda Devi so this book hold special significance for me. I think I have about 20 books on Nanda Devi.



Posted in books, Himalayas, travel Also tagged , , , , , |

Gangotri glacier and the Bhagirathi peaks – 1860 and 2005

Samuel Bourne Gangotri

Gangotri glacier and the Bhagirathi peaks, Samuel Bourne 1860s

Two photographs of Gangotri, one taken by Samuel Bourne in the mid 1800’s and the other taken in 2005 from nearly the same location, almost 150 years apart.

Gangotri glacier

Gangotri glacier and the Bhagirathi peaks, Ran Chakrabarti, 2005

Notice how much the Gangroti Glacier has shrunk in volume; for more on that see the note below.

 Gangotri glacier and the Bhagirathi peaks Ran Chakrabarti in 2005

Gangotri Galcier Retreat (Source: NASA)

The false-color image above shows the Gangotri Glacier, situated in the Uttarkashi District of Garhwal Himalaya. Currently 30.2 km long and between 0.5 and 2.5 km wide, Gangotri glacier is one of the largest in the Himalaya. Gangotri has been receding since 1780, although studies show its retreat quickened after 1971. (Please note that the blue contour lines drawn here to show the recession of the glacier’s terminus over time are approximate.) Over the last 25 years, Gangotri glacier has retreated more than 850 meters, with a recession of 76 meters from 1996 to 1999 alone. (Source: NASA)


Samuel Bourne, photographer (1834-1912)

Samuel Bourne, 1864

Samuel Bourne, 1864

Samuel Bourne, a professional photographer from Nottingham lived and worked in India from 1862 to 1869 . He was an outstanding landscape worker of his time. He also made a number of expeditions, starting with a ten-week tour in the Himalayas, followed by other much longer ones. It is said that on one of his journeys he employed as many as fifty servants to carry the vast array of equipment, liquids and personal effects for the tour.

 Writing in the British Journal of Photography, 1864, he recorded the pain and pleasure of his work: “With scenery like this it is very difficult to deal with the camera: it is altogether too gigantic and stupendous to be brought within the limits imposed on photography….”

 “My anxiety to get views of some of these fine combinations of rocks and water often induced me to leave he regular track, and put myself and my instruments innthe greatest danger by attempting an abrupt descent to some spot below….to command a fine picture. Though this was only accomplished with immense difficulty, sundry bruises, and great personal fatigue under a scorching sun, I was in every instance rewarded, always returning with pictures which the more sontented gazer from above would scarcely believe obtainable. But this toiling is almost too much for me, and, I must confess, it at the time greatly outweighed the pleasure.” In a later article he writes of the power of photography to change the way we look at things: “…it teaches the mind to see the beauty and power of such scenes as these… For my own part, I may say that before I commenced photography I did not see half the beauties in nature that I do now, and the glory and power of a precious landscape has often passed before me and left but a feeble impression on my untutored mind; but it will never be so again.” He must have been a pretty hard task-master! In the British Journal of Photography (October 1866) he describes his reaction on discovering that there had been several loads abandoned by coolies: “This was getting serious, and I viewed vengeance against the rascals who had placed me in this difficulty…. Taking a stout stick in my hand I set out in search of them… I walked in… (one of the houses) …and soon discovered my firneds hiding beneath a charpoy or bed, and dragging them forth made them feel the “quality” of my stock, amid … cries and lamentations….”

Bourne made well over three thousand negatives during his travels in the East. His work may be seen at the India Record Office, London, and at the Royal Photographic Society, Bath England.

More of Samuel Bourne’s photographs can be viewed on the BBC’s website and if you are interested in purchasing a book of his photographs Photographic Journeys in the Himalayas 1863 – 1866 by Samuel Bourne Compiled & edited by Hugh Rayner



Posted in Himalayas, Historical photography, travel Also tagged , , , |