Mount Everest Is Higher Than You Thought

You probably knew Mount Everest was the highest mountain in the world, an ultimate goal for dedicated mountaineers around the world. But did you know that its precise height was controversial, and has been the subject of an international feud for over a decade? The mountain sits on the border between Nepal, where it's known as Sagarmatha, and Tibet, where it's known as Qomolangma, but is officially located in Nepal. Per CNN, it was first calculated at 29,002 feet above sea level in 1856 by Sir George Everest, the British explorer after whom the mountain was named. He was pretty close, but in 1955, the figure was readjusted to 8,848 meters, or 29,028 feet high, which was considered the official height thereafter. 

The Nepalese government, however, has rejected various height claims over the years, including one by an American team who used GPS to calculate the height at 29,035 feet, as the team didn't use a government-approved measurement procedure. Another measurement effort, by a Chinese team who came back with 29,015 feet, was rejected because Nepal hadn't authorized the research and therefore wouldn't recognize it.

Nepal announced in 2012 that they would perform their own mission to check Everest's height; they were spurred to take action after a destructive 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015, after which scientists disagreed whether or not the quake had affected the mountain's size.

Nepal took surveying to new heights

Ganesh Prasad Bhatta, director general of Nepal's Department of Survey, put together an expert Nepalese team that set out in 2017 to measure Mount Everest using "a combination of geodetic data received from three mechanisms: leveling instrument, gravity meter and GPS." Bhatta expected to have an answer in two years; it took a little longer than expected, but the results are finally in. 

According to CNN, on December 9, 2020, China and Nepal announced that they finally agreed on the official height of Mount Everest: 8,848.86 meters, or about 29,032 feet, increasing the official height by .86 meters, or nearly three feet. Susheel Dangol, deputy director general at Nepal's Department of Survey, called the project "a matter of national pride for Nepal and a prestigious undertaking for the Nepali government." He further noted that China and Nepal had jointly processed the survey data to reach the final number. During a 2019 visit to Nepal by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two countries agreed they would announce the findings together at the completion of the project, and called the mountain "an eternal symbol of the friendship between Nepal and China."