Today’s Oxygenated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Eminent scientists in 1922 were by no means convinced that Mt. Everest could be climbed without the aid of supplemental oxygen. Balloonists had been known to collapse and die at lesser altitudes. “If you do succeed,” the Everest Committee was warned by Professor Dreyer, a consultant physiologist for the Royal Air Force, “you may not get down again.” Accordingly, an oxygen subcommittee was set up by the Alpine Club, comprising Capt. Percy Farrar, George Finch, Howard Somervell, and another climber-scientist, P. J. H. Unna. They were to study the problem and to order whatever equipment was necessary. In Professor Dreyer’s pressure chamber in Oxford, Finch and Somervell underwent tests that took them to a simulated height of 23,000 feet. They were required to step on and off a chair with a 35-pound load. Finch managed with no apparent difficulty, but Somervell appeared to waver after his fifth step. He vigorously denied that he felt any ill effects, but his insistence was taken as a sign that he was exhibiting the quarrelsome characteristics known to be one symptom of hypoxia (oxygen deficiency ) and oxygen was forcibly administered.
It is not the proportion of oxygen in the air that diminishes as climbers gain elevation – this remains a constant 20.93 percent – but the atmospheric pressure that decreases. At 18,000 feet it is only half that at sea level and at the summit of Everest it falls to a third that at sea level. The body has trouble making the necessary gaseous exchanges in the lungs at diminished pressures like these. The first indication of oxygen deprivation will be an increased respiratory rate, as the climber strains after usable air. The heartbeat quickens to 140 beats per minute or more, making exercise extremely difficult; even rolling over in your sleeping bag leaves you breathless for many minutes afterward. The blood thickens, making you more susceptible to thrombosis and strokes, and it turns a very dark red, so that the face and hands appear bluish in color – especially the finger nails. As unconsciousness approaches there may be mental confusion and irritability, and the blueness becomes even more marked.
The last photo taken of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, showing their oxygen apparatus.
Why, yes I am obsessed with Mt. Everest. Why do you ask?
Menstruation Site Du Jour!
If you’re interested in perusing old advertisements about “woman’s most trying hygienic handicap” you’ll greatly enjoy the online Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health. Thanks to Rhiannon for the link.
Let Them Eat Faces!
As Mike, who sent me the link, says, “Gruesome with a twist”. A tasty twist! Artwork by Ashkan Honarvar.