Charles Howard-Bury was a British soldier, explorer, climber, and politician. He is perhaps best known for leading the first expedition to Everest, in 1921; however he also travelled extensively in India, Kashmir, Europe and Russia, even travelling overland from Siberia to western China. During World War I he spent four years on the front, before being captured in 1918 and spending several months as a prisoner of war. In addition, he was ‘a brilliant writer, a fine photographer, a keen and accomplished naturalist’ and fluent in 27 languages. [1]

On the Everest expedition, near Lhakpa La, at an altitude of about 22,000 feet, he came across tracks in the snow that looked very much like those that would be made by bare human feet. He later reported them as probably belonging to a large wolf, but his porters declared them to be tracks of the Metohkangmi, a creature that came to be known in the Western media as the Abominable Snowman. [2]

As this recently discovered diary shows, Howard-Bury had a deep interest in cryptozoology. Some of the illustrations in the volume appear to be drawn by others, or based on verbal accounts. There are frequent references to his colleagues and the events of the 1921 Everest expedition, suggesting it dates from this journey. Unfortunately many of the pages have been torn out and much of the text is incomplete. 

  1. Davis, Wade, 2012. Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest. London: Vintage Books, p. 103.
  2. Ibid. p. 353.
Haggis—I drew these for Morshead, who doesn’t believe me (or Kellas). I saw these in the Scottish highlands; they are round and furry, about the size of a grouse, with a duck-like bill, and a low, beautiful call, like a flute or whistle.

Haggis—I drew these for Morshead, who doesn’t believe me (or Kellas). I saw these in the Scottish highlands; they are round and furry, about the size of a grouse, with a duck-like bill, and a low, beautiful call, like a flute or whistle.

…I spied these tiny beasts in the dzongpen’s beautiful gardens, swimming about amongst the lillies, just a glance before we were hurried on. They looked very much like the miniature water buffalos I saw some years ago during my travels in Manchuria. Could these specimens be native to Tibet, or a gift from afar? The dzongpen was coy!

…I spied these tiny beasts in the dzongpen’s beautiful gardens, swimming about amongst the lillies, just a glance before we were hurried on. They looked very much like the miniature water buffalos I saw some years ago during my travels in Manchuria. Could these specimens be native to Tibet, or a gift from afar? The dzongpen was coy!

I drew this from a description Wheeler gave me, he calls it a jackalope. He says it is like a jackrabbit with the horns of an antelope. The banjo is a fancy of mine, of course, tho’ they are know to sing and mimic the voices of men sitting around a campfire. 

I drew this from a description Wheeler gave me, he calls it a jackalope. He says it is like a jackrabbit with the horns of an antelope. The banjo is a fancy of mine, of course, tho’ they are know to sing and mimic the voices of men sitting around a campfire. 

I drew this creature to show Wheeler, as it sounded very much like his jackalope. Only I saw this on the wall of a chalet in the Alps, before the war—the owner said he caught it in a snare, in the woods behind his house.

I drew this creature to show Wheeler, as it sounded very much like his jackalope. Only I saw this on the wall of a chalet in the Alps, before the war—the owner said he caught it in a snare, in the woods behind his house.

…Wollaston gave me these photographs, he got them from his friend in the Foreign Office, when he was travelling in Japan. They suggest the jackalope and its variants are not native only to America and Europe—that indeed variations of this species can be found all over the world. Though Darwin appeared to have found nothing like it during his voyages.

…Wollaston gave me these photographs, he got them from his friend in the Foreign Office, when he was travelling in Japan. They suggest the jackalope and its variants are not native only to America and Europe—that indeed variations of this species can be found all over the world. Though Darwin appeared to have found nothing like it during his voyages.

Late last night I came across this delightful creature, which reminds me of the Swedish skvadar—theirs is a kind of winged hare, but with feathery wings like that of a bird; this animal was much smaller, with soft, powdery wings like a moth or butterfly. I thought about pursuing it for Morshead’s collection but it seemed wise not to risk angering the Tibetans further. I worry there will be a great price to pay later if we do not rein in our collecting. Bell was very clear on that point—and I confess the longer I am in the Himalaya the more I am sympathetic to the Buddhists' feelings on these matters. To see it wilted and still in a jar would have broken my heart.

Late last night I came across this delightful creature, which reminds me of the Swedish skvadar—theirs is a kind of winged hare, but with feathery wings like that of a bird; this animal was much smaller, with soft, powdery wings like a moth or butterfly. I thought about pursuing it for Morshead’s collection but it seemed wise not to risk angering the Tibetans further. I worry there will be a great price to pay later if we do not rein in our collecting. Bell was very clear on that point—and I confess the longer I am in the Himalaya the more I am sympathetic to the Buddhists' feelings on these matters. To see it wilted and still in a jar would have broken my heart.

…the Himalayan skvadar reminded me of another creature I saw, when I was hiding in that soggy ditch after my escape from Fürstenberg, half-drowned and stung all over with nettles. Called the wolpetinger, or the raurakl, in Austria—like a squirrel with antlers and fangs and wings. It emerged suddenly from the reeds; I thought it would bite my nose and give me away, but then that soldier came close and it fled. Dürer drew something similar though again his specimen had the wings of a bird. I wonder how many variants there are?

…the Himalayan skvadar reminded me of another creature I saw, when I was hiding in that soggy ditch after my escape from Fürstenberg, half-drowned and stung all over with nettles. Called the wolpetinger, or the raurakl, in Austria—like a squirrel with antlers and fangs and wings. It emerged suddenly from the reeds; I thought it would bite my nose and give me away, but then that soldier came close and it fled. Dürer drew something similar though again his specimen had the wings of a bird. I wonder how many variants there are?

…went ahead to look for those blue delphiniums, when Heron came rushing after with the dreadful news. We shall have to put it about that Kellas died of a heart attack, or something similar, of course—gods! If any others had seen the body! Worse than a sky burial. And I fear Raeburn will never be the same. It’ll be up to Mallory and Bullock now, to attempt the mountain, but I have to say we are all wondering if we should continue. There was no warning, he said, suddenly it was just There...all teeth and fangs, whirling through the wind and snow. Wheeler drew this for me later, a beast called a Hodag, which he saw when climbing in the Canadian Rockies. Reports on the appearance of this animal vary but Wheeler was adamant it had the face of a man, the body of a bull and the tail of a dragon. It is not like that which we saw, and which we know is capable of such violence—that creature stood upright, a great shaggy beast, taller than a man—but I cannot help but think it a brother species—there is a certain malevolence in its gaze and bearing.

…went ahead to look for those blue delphiniums, when Heron came rushing after with the dreadful news. We shall have to put it about that Kellas died of a heart attack, or something similar, of course—gods! If any others had seen the body! Worse than a sky burial. And I fear Raeburn will never be the same. It’ll be up to Mallory and Bullock now, to attempt the mountain, but I have to say we are all wondering if we should continue. There was no warning, he said, suddenly it was just There...all teeth and fangs, whirling through the wind and snow.

Wheeler drew this for me later, a beast called a Hodag, which he saw when climbing in the Canadian Rockies. Reports on the appearance of this animal vary but Wheeler was adamant it had the face of a man, the body of a bull and the tail of a dragon. It is not like that which we saw, and which we know is capable of such violence—that creature stood upright, a great shaggy beast, taller than a man—but I cannot help but think it a brother species—there is a certain malevolence in its gaze and bearing.

Haggis, Manchurian Miniature Water Buffalo and Jackalope [with banjo] by Zoe Vogels. Skyvader, Jackalope [mounted specimen] and Wolpertinger by Katie Kitchen. Hodag by Albertine Hamilton. Photographic evidence of the Jackalope by Noni Zachri. Words by Alice Cannon.

Zoe Vogels is a vet living in country Victoria who enjoys drawing. She is on Twitter @SaidHanrahan.

Katie Kitchen is an Adelaide artist.

Albertine Hamilton is a paper conservator and artist (albertine.hamilton@gmail.com).

Noni Zachri is a conservator of paper and photographs, martial arts fan, and amateur photographer.

Alice Cannon (@pinknantucket) is a conservator of paper and photographs and editor/publisher of pinknantucket press.

Next: Facon, by David Harris

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