Great Nutters of History: Maurice Wilson

I first found out about Maurice Wilson, oddly enough, from a wonderful little fictional work called Skepticism Inc, by Bo Fowler. I wasn't sure whether the story was at all accurate or even if it was pure fiction, but it didn't much matter. It was funny, and apposite to the mindset of the book.

Then a month or so back, I read an excellent book on the history of Everest mountaineering by George Band, a member of the successful 1955 expedition. The book mentioned Maurice Wilson, confirming, in a completely unexpected manner, that Maurice was real.

Here's how Skepticism Inc describes Maurice Wilson:

Maurice Wilson believed that if you fast for thirty-five days, subsisting on sips of water, and pray to God, then you could do anything. He attempted to climb Mount Everest to publicise this belief. 

Sounds good so far huh? reading on....

His plan was to crash-land a plane on the side of Everest and walk the rest of the way to the summit.

He took off from the London Aero Club, flew rather badly across Europe and the Middle East, and finally arrived in India, where the local authorities promptly impounded his plane, regarding him as a maniac.

Then the monsoon came. Wilson fasted for thirty-five days, subsisting on sips of water, and prayed to God. At the end of the thirty-five days of fasting Wilson felt incredibly weak, got a cold, and decided to go home. "

So far, this really appeals to my sense of humour, but it doesn't end there. Wilson vanished at this point, and newspaper headlines in 1933 blared "Everest Airman Missing". In fact, it's more likely he was held in Karachi under arrest for flying in on no paperwork. It seems he wasn't held for long and eventually set out, with guides, to conquer the mountain. takes up the story:

He then seems to have spent a year or so in Darjeeling living with Indian Mystics “mastering the Science of Yogism, subordinating the body to the will of the spirit until he could live for days without food, and endure cold and hardship sufficient to kill an ordinary man.”  Having sold his aircraft he set out with three guides to walk the 300 miles to the foot of Everest and then climb it solo.  It would seem he was last seen alive setting out alone up a glacier equipped with a tent, three loaves, two tins of oatmeal, a camera, and his silken Union Jack.

Remember, this was in 1934, a time when numerous attempts on the mountain had been made without success. It would not be climbed successfully until 1955, and even then only by a concerted, organised and well supplied effort. Our hero, Maurice, wanted to climb it solo, using wacky spiritual mumbo-jumbo to triumph where the best climbers of the day failed.

Can you guess what happened? Everest Facts brings us the thrilling conclusion:

1934: The eccentric Maurice Wilson attempts to solo Everest, having no mountaineering experience but possessing an inner faith to succeed. Camped at the base of the North Col, Wilson asks his Sherpas to wait ten days for him to return, after which they would be free to leave. He doesn't return, so the Sherpas return to Darjeeling, where Tenzing Norgay reports seeing them with large amounts of money. Wilson's body is later found at approximately 21,000 feet (6400 meters) below the North Col by members of the 1935 Reconnaissance Expedition. He was found in the remains of his tent; apparently he had died while in the act of taking off his boots. How far did he get? No one knows... His body was buried in a crevasse and it periodically resurfaces over the years as the East Rongbuk Glacier continues its steady advance downhill.

My. Hero.

Thomas Noy believes Wilson made it to the summit. I myself believe this is extremely far-fetched, as do most authorities on the subject (of which I am certainly not one). I'm inclined to believe Bo's paraphrasing of the story, even though in Skepticism Inc, he "froze to death 250ft up", significantly short of the rather impressive 21,000ft.

He was essentially a lone nut with a crazy idea, who reached for his dream and fell spectacularly flat.

I only wish more people knew his story.

Religion 101

"OK students, it's time for your final examination. You've studied hard and I'm sure you'll all do a great job. No conferring, you may turn over your papers.... now."

Tip of the hat goes to Stupidity Tracker for that one.

In other news, the Playstation 3 launch is looking less than stellar, with large media outlets generally reporting sub-expectation crowds, and Kotaku in particular calling it 'piss poor'. THink I'll stick to my XBox for the time being.

Just because I haven't been posting about it recently...

... doesn't mean the ocean is not a seething pool of deadliness. I mean it. To whit, yet another diver has been sorely fucked over by a stingray.

So, folks, let's just get something straight.


LittleBigPlanet, or "why I might want a PS3 after all"

I've been distinctly underenthusiastic for the coming PS3 launch, as you might expect from someone with a healthy helping of Sony-unlove, but Spong just highlighted something which is making me think.

Maybe I want one

First of all, Katamari Damacy. OK, this may be coming to XBox 360, so it's not a selling point for the PS any longer. But check this out instead

This is LittleBigPlanet - something rather neat looking from a bunch of pommie guys with an out-of-the-box perspective. The degree of physics-realism is startling. Armadillo Run was a nice intro to realistic physics, but add to that the high-quality imagery and rich colour you see in this game, and you have something rather special.

I'm also something of a sucker for cute games with a kid streak. Ref: the Lego Star Wars franchise.

Here's part two of the above video.

So the question is this. Do I buy one? Indeed, CAN I buy one?

Kaiser Chiefs

So we got to catch the Kasier Chiefs last night at the Forum, Fox Studios *ahem* The Entertainment Quarter. This was the second time I've seen The Chiefs in concert, the first being at The Metro. The forum is a slicker venue, and louder, and I have to say, I kind of prefer it.

Support was provided by The Cops (warning, link goes to MySpace), who were pretty damn good - tight, energetic and well constructed. Some readers may know them from their "Call Me Anytime' track. They'll be at The Great Escape, and I'll probably mosey on by and check them out.

The Kaiser Chiefs themselves arrived shortly later than their 9.15 expected start, and were straight in, putting on the show we expected. tracks from the new album 'Yours Truly Angry Mob' were interpersed with familar singalongs from the first album. Lead singer Ricky has a serious showman complex, and last time we saw them, he managed to crowd-surf from the front of the Metro to the bar at the very back of the venue. This time the theatrics were slightly less subdued, but he did get out onto the barriers at one point. Closing out with a final encore, "Oh My God", The Chiefs once again managed to impress in fine style. Highlights: "Heat Dies Down", "Oh My God", "I Predict A Riot". Gig rating: 3.5 stars.

No doubt Chris will be putting up a review at Sydney Music Guide, check there for more details.

Vaccination Saves Lives: Stop The Australian Vaccination Network
Say NO to the National School Chaplaincy Program