Home Film Finding of Mallory’s body. But where is the Kodak VP camera?

Finding of Mallory’s body. But where is the Kodak VP camera?


Wayne Gerlach’s gripping account of his trek to Everest, here on Macfilos last week, has proved very popular and has attracted a raft of comments, some of which have shed additional light on the mystery of Mallory and Irvine’s expedition of 1924.

As Wayne mentioned, the discovery of George Mallory’s body in 1999 raised a number of interesting conjectures, especially that the absence of the photograph of his wife gave a good indication that the pair had reached the summit and were on the descent when the fatal accident occurred. Mallory had said in advance that if he reached the summit he would leave his wife’s photograph there.

Grim viewing

Macfilos contributor Kevin Armstrong discovered the following video account of the discovery of Mallory’s body and it proves grim but fascinating viewing. Could it be that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine conquered Everest nearly 30 years before the acknowledged success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, just in time for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II?

Kevin Also points us in the direction of an excellent documentary made by John Ridgway some 30 years ago. It makes compelling viewing.

There is one interesting fact which draws in another recent Macfilos story concerning the manufacture of Ilford film. It seems that Mallory was born in 1886 In Mobberley, Cheshire, the son of the local vicar. Mobberley is now the home of Ilford film. One can only wonder if Mallory’s Kodak Vest Pocket camera was loaded with a roll of Ilford. We will probably never know, but one expert has predicted that the camera could be revealed by the receding glacier within the next few years.


As William Fagan points out, though, the challenges of actually getting anything from the film, Ilford or otherwise, would be monumental.

One more hazy memory has come back to me. I believe that when Kodak engineers were being lined up, in case the camera of Mallory or Irvine turned up, they had to be trained as regards the chemical and other properties of early Kodak films which were very slow by comparison with modern films. I have used a VPK on a few occasions and, following the original instructions, it would seem that it was designed for film speeds equivalent to about 5 or 10 ISO. ISO or ASA did not exist as concepts at that time, course.

I used modern ISO 100 film (127 format), but I really had to guess exposures using a hand held meter. The earlier VPKs lack any kind of ‘f stop’, and just have descriptions of weather or distances on the aperture scale and there are two speeds for handheld photography, 1/25th and 1/50th.

Perhaps, though, we shouldn’t give up hope. When John Ridgway made his documentary on the 1924 expedition he could not have imagined that Mallory’s body would be discovered little more than ten years later. Conspiracy theorists, however, claim that China found the camera and suppressed the information. It seems that, with Everest, anything can and probably will happen.


  1. You will probably discover the camera either fell out of his pocket, or perhaps he had handed it to Irvine. This becomes more realistic if the camera contains the images of Mallory stood on the summit. Basically I think they both made it, and the evidence is on the camera, but on the other climber.

    It would be nice to find, but watching the programme and reading what we have – perhaps we should accept they did make it, but at the cost of their lives.


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