April 30, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


I consider Charles Lindberg's flight across the atlantic to be idiocy.

I consider the hero sandwich to be a more useful creation than the conventional hero. Anyone who risks his life for fame and fortune is a fool. His life is more precious than anything that he can possibly gain. Yes, I consider Charles Lindberg's flight across the atlantic to be idiocy. The fact that he made it can be attributed to considerable skill, but mostly to dumb luck.

During the past year we have been plagued by news stories of rich people trying to fly(?) a balloon around the Earth. Most of the time, they ended up coming down before they achieved their goal and we were bored with a news story about it. Now that someone has finally done it we will no longer be plagued with that nonsense; for which I am very grateful.

I subscribe to National Geographic magazine. Several times each year they have a story about one or more idiots who do things that put their life at risk for no good reason except, perhaps, to get their story in National Geographic.

One day, when I had my fill of such nonsense, I decided to write the magazine and, in my own inimitable style, to let the editor know what I thought of those stories. I sent the following letter:

Dec. 10, 1987

To: Members Forum, National Geographic Magazine, Washington, DC 20013

I would like to relate an incident which happened to me last summer, while I was investigating some geologic formations in the Himalayas at about the 16,000 ft. level.

It was in a blind canyon that I discovered a small pile of bones. While most had been carried away by scavengers, sufficient remained to identify them as human. Further search uncovered a wristwatch and a diary. The diary was in such poor condition, that I made no attempt to open it until I returned home.

Most of the writing had been obliterated, but what there was might interest your readers. The first part was an account of an air, rail and bus journey to one of the more remote parts of Tibet. It was the last part that was of greatest interest. Excerpts read as follows: Supplies: 100 granola bars, 20 lbs.trail mix, 33 Snickers, 1 pr.socks, 1 set long underwear, 1 hollofill sleeping bag, 1 pr. sandals.

Started trek... Nov...weather lovely...disgarded longjohns......cold.......snow.....toes blue......black....lost ..nose ..legs numb.

The last memorable entry was: must go on.... thought that keeps me going ... acceptance of article by National Geographic.

Unfortunately,I have been unable to identify this valiant person so that he/she can be celebrated.

I am reminded of an interview with that renowned explorer Sir Guiness Aldebaran. When he was asked why he had so many narrow escapes, he replied candidly, "I don't prepare too much, because I like surprises." When asked why he wrote books and articles, he answered "Because I am here".

Ira Pilgrim

In reply, I received the following letter:

Dec. 24, 1987

From: National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Mr. Pilgrim:

Thank you for your recent letter to the National Geographic Society.

I wish that the diary you found contained more information about its author. To the best I can determine, no Tibetan explorer connected to the Society died (or disappeared) en route. Most likely, the adventurer that you found initiated a trek hoping to sell his or her tale to us at a later time but, instead, met a tragic end.

We appreciate the information you have passed along to us. If you have not already done so, you may want to consider contacting the Tibetan authorities concerning your discovery. They may be able to identify this individual and notify the family.

Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely, John A. Rutter, Research Correspondence

To this day, I don't know whether the person who replied is devoid of a sense of humor, or if he has a drier sense of humor than I do. I suppose that I will never find out.

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