The Real Reason We Can't Find George Mallory's Lost Camera

Nearly three decades before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached Mount Everest's summit, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine would attempt the same feat (via History). According to History Extra, Mallory was an "expert mountaineer" who had first tried to climb Everest in 1921. When asked why, he dryly stated "because it's there." Though he failed, he and his team would return in 1922 to no avail. It would be a 1924 expedition, however, that would change everything. It's then Mallory chose 22-year-old Irvine, an inexperienced climber, as his partner.

On June 6, The Wire reports that Noel Odell, another climber on the expedition, watched as Mallory and Irvine left the base camp. On June 8, Odell saw "two tiny dots" presumed to be the climbers near Everest's summit (per The Sunday Post). After that, the pair would never be seen again. Gripped writes that it's unknown if Mallory and Irvine actually made it to the top. What Odell witnessed could have been the climbers either going up or coming down the summit. What is known, however, is that Mallory had taken a Vest Pocket Kodak Camera with him, to provide proof that he and Irvine had made it to the summit.

Andrew Irvine's remains have never been found

History Extra writes that Mallory had also taken a photo of his wife Ruth with him, as he had promised he would leave it on Everest's summit. Over 70 years would pass before anything would be known about Mallory and Irvine's fate. They had obviously died on the mountain, but how and why remained unclear. According to All That's Interesting, an expedition was formed to find them and in 1999, Mallory's well preserved remains were discovered.

Smithsonian Magazine reports that his body was found on Everest's Northeast Ridge and was "mummified" and "frozen solid." A sewn tag on the clothing with Mallory's name confirmed his identity. Irvine, the Kodak camera, and the photo of Ruth, however, were nowhere to be found. Around Mallory's waist was a rope. It's believed he was tied to Irvine and that they had fallen to their deaths. Mallory had extensive injuries, including a broken elbow and leg. It seems that a head injury is what ultimately killed him.

It's thought that the camera, with possible proof that the climbers had reached Everest, had been in Irvine's pocket (via Gripped). Per The Sunday Post, an expedition in 2019 sought to find both Irvine's remains and the camera. Kodak experts have surmised that if found, the film could very well be developed. As of 2022, Irvine, the camera, and the photo of Mallory's wife, have yet to be discovered.