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Yeti - The Abominable Snowman

Purported Yeti scalp at Khumjung monastery.

The Yeti, is a humanoid cryptid associated with the Himalayas sometimes referred to as the Abominable Snowman. The names Yeti or Meh-Teh are part of their history and mythology, and commonly used by people indigenous to the Himalaya.

Most mainstream scientists, explorers and writers with experience of the area, consider current evidence of

the Yeti's existence to be weak and better explained as hoax, legend, or misidentification of known species. Nevertheless, the Yeti remains one of the most famous creatures of cryptozoology.

Animals that live in the Himalayas, known to Tibetans, Nepalese and mammologists that are directly linked with the Yeti phenomena are the Chu-Teh, a Langur monkey living at lower altitudes, the Tibetan Blue Bear, the Himalayan Brown Bear and the Dzu-Teh which is the Himalayan Red Bear.

The term Yeti is often used to describe a number of very different reported creatures:

* A large ape-like biped (that some suggest could be a Gigantopithecus)

* Human-sized bipedal apes (the Almas and the Chinese wildman)

* Dwarf-like creatures (such as the Orang Pendek).

The term is also often used to refer to reported creatures that fit any of these descriptions: for example, the fear liath may be referred to as the "Scottish Yeti".

The appellation "Abominable Snowman" did not come into existence until 1921, in that year Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury lead the Royal Geographical Society's "Everest Reconnaissance Expedition" from which he authored "Mount Everest The Reconnaissance, 1921".

In his book he wrote, amongst the details of the expedition, of an account, whilst crossing the "Lhakpa-la" at 21,000 feet where he found footprints in the snow. Howard-Bury stated that these tracks "were probably caused by a large 'loping' grey wolf, which in the soft snow formed double tracks rather like a those of a barefooted man".

However Howard-Bury also stated that "our coolies at once volunteered that the tracks must be that of "The Wild Man of the Snows", to which they gave the name "metoh-kangmi" "Metoh" translates as "man bear" and "Kang-mi" translates as "snowman".

The 1954 Pangboche Scalp Investigation

The Pangboche Hand and Yeti "Scalp", 1954

Dr. Biswamoy Biswas examining the Pangboche Yeti scalp during the Daily Mail Snowman Expedition of 1954

The Daily Mail, on March 19th 1954, printed an article, where the"Snowman Expedition" teams obtained and submitted specimens of hairs from the scalp in Pangboche monastery. Professor Frederic Wood Jones, F.R.S, D.Sc., and an expert in human and comparative anatomy, conducted the research on the hair.

The research consisted of taking micro-photographs of the hairs and comparing them with hairs from known animals such as the bear and orangutan.

Professor Woods-Jones was of the opinion that the evidence of the hairs and the photographs, from the Pangboche monastery "scalp", proved it was not a scalp of any type.

The reason for this is that although some animals have a ridge of hair beginning at the top of the head and extending between the shoulders to the back, he did not believe that any animals have a ridge such as shown in the photographs of the Pangboche relic "running from the base of the forehead across the top of the head and ending at the back of the neck".

The hairs were a "foxy-red" in sunlight and black or dark brown in colour in dull light. None of these had been dyed and they were probably exceedingly old.

The hairs were bleached, cut into sections and compared microscopically with those of known animals. Wood-Jones was unable to suggest from what animal the Pangboche hairs were taken. He was however convinced they are not the hairs of an anthropoid ape, or of a bear. He suggests they may come from the hair of a coarse-haired hoofed animal, but not from its head; they may be from its shoulder.

Early 20th century

The frequency of reports increased in the early 20th century, when Westerners began making determined attempts to climb the many mountains in the area and sometimes reported seeing odd creatures or strange tracks.

In 1925, N.A. Tombazi, a photographer and member of the Royal Geographical Society, saw a creature at about 15,000 ft near Zemu Glacier. Tombazi later wrote that he observed the creature from about 200 or 300 yards, for about one minute. "Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occasionally to pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes.

It showed up dark against the snow, and as far as I could make out, wore no clothes." About two hours later, Tombazi and his companions descended the mountain, and saw what they took to be the creature's prints, described as "similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide.... The prints were undoubtedly those of a biped."

Late 20th century

Western interest in the Yeti peaked dramatically in the 1950s. While attempting to scale Mount Everest in 1951, Eric Shipton took photographs of a number of large prints in the snow, at about 6,000 m (19,685 ft) above sea level. These photos have been subject to intense study and debate. Some argue they are the best evidence of Yeti's reality, but others contend the prints are from a mundane creature and have been distorted and enlarged by the melting snow.

In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest. Hillary would later discount Yeti reports as unreliable.

During the Daily Mail Snowman Expedition of 1954, the largest search of its kind, the mountaineering leader John Angelo Jackson, made the first trek from Everest to Kangchenjunga and in the process photographed symbolic paintings of the Yeti at Thyangboche Gompa. Jackson tracked and also photographed many footprints in the snow, many of which were identifiable.

However, there were many large footprints which could not be identified. The flattened footprint-like indentations were attributed to erosion and subsequent widening of the original footprint by wind and particle action.

Beginning in 1957, Tom Slick, an American who had made a fortune in oil, funded a few missions to investigate Yeti reports. In 1959, feces reportedly from a Yeti were collected by Slick's expedition. Analysis found a parasite but could not classify it. Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that "Since each animal has its own parasites, this indicated that the host animal is equally an unknown animal."

In 1959, actor Jimmy Stewart, while visiting India, reportedly smuggled the remains of a supposed Yeti, the so-called Pangboche Hand, by hiding them in his luggage when he flew from India to London. In 1960, Sir Edmund Hillary mounted an expedition to collect and evaluate evidence for the Yeti and sent a Yeti scalp from the Khumjung monastery to the West for testing.

The results indicated that the scalp had been manufactured from the skin of the serow, a goat-like Himalayan antelope. But some disagreed with this analysis. Shackley said they "pointed out that hairs from the scalp look distinctly monkey-like, and that it contains parasitic mites of a species different from that recovered from the serow."

In 1970, British mountaineer Don Whillans says he saw a creature while scaling Annapurna. While scouting for a campsite, Whillans heard some odd cries. His sherpa guide told him the sound was a Yeti's call. That night, reported Whillans, he saw a dark shape moving near his camp.

The next day, Whillans observed a few human like footprints in the snow, and that evening, he asserted that with binoculars, he watched a bipedal, ape-like creature for about 20 minutes as it apparently searched for food not far from his camp.

The anthropologist John Napier (primatologist) in his book "Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality", a detailed collation of writings, first hand reports and analysis on the subject, argued that amongst what evidence there is for the Yeti, "unlike the Sasquatch, there is little uniformity of pattern, and what uniformity there is incriminates the bear".

Many cryptozoologists, after examining eye-witness reports and statistical evidence, have concluded that Yeti reports are misidentification of mundane creatures. Well-financed expeditions have turned up little positive evidence of its existence, although one expedition to Bhutan did retrieve a hair sample that, after DNA analysis, could not be matched to any known animal.

In 1997, Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner claimed to have come face to face with a Yeti. He has since written a book, My Quest for the Yeti, and also claims to have actually killed one. According to Messner, the Yeti is actually the endangered Himalayan Brown Bear, Ursus arctos isabellinus that can walk upright or on all fours.

The Yeti has become a cultural icon, appearing in movies, books and video games. Mainly this is in the abominable snowman style, but occasionally as comic relief.

The Yeti is one of the characters in the Tintin comic 'Tintin in Tibet'. The Yeti in the story rescues Tintin's friend, Chang, from the remains of an air crash in Tibet.

Several Looney Tunes shorts feature a Yeti named Hugo. He is obsessed with having a rabbit, whom he will call George. This is an allusion to a character from Of Mice and Men named Lennie - who is a large, physically strong man with the mind of a child.

Most recently, the Yeti has become the main attraction in the Himalayan-themed Roller-coaster ride, Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The ride features a very large and extremely lifelike Audio-Animatronic Yeti, whose massive hand appears to just miss the riders as they pass under him in the ride's final scene.

The Yeti was also featured in an amateur film about the popular website, which portrayed the Yeti as a gender confused man, in which a lot of emphasis was put on its hair.


The riddle of the yeti will continue to tantalise humankind for a long time to come.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Sri Lanka
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