Pictures and Poetry of the Himalayas

Two days ago, we discovered a small box of lantern slides in the archive, which had previously escaped our notice.

Geography box

“Geography” Lantern Slide Box

The unprepossessing brown cardboard cover with pencil markings revealed six stunningly beautiful images of the Himalayas and Baltoro glacier.

Himalaya Lantern Slides

Himalaya Lantern Slides

As the reverse of one of the lantern slides shows (top middle), they are images by the Italian photographer and explorer Vittorio Sella of the Baltoro Glacier, taken during his 1909 expedition to the Karakorum accompanied by Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of the Abruzzi  (for more images of the expedition, see the Library of Fratelli Alinari Museum of the History of Photography, Florence – The others (clockwise) are marked Staircase Windy Gap, Mustagh Tower from Baltoro gl., 1st Camp on Baltoro gl., Mt. Paiju & Towers from Rdokass, and K2 & Camp III.

The beauty of the Himalayas was not only appreciated by mountaineers, but also held interest for a wide range of explorers, including archaeologist and poet Stuart Piggott (1910 -1996), who travelled around India and Tibet in 1942-3.

Celebrating National Poetry Day today, we take this opportunity to share Stuart Piggott’s Poem ‘The Explorers’ of 4 May 1946


WE are the geographers bringing back reports
from inward Himalayas –
the difficult pass, the bridge that rains have broken,
the snow-peak sighted, unmapped, unclimbable.
But the theodolite bearings, the aneroid readings,
these we note down –
they may help the expedition leaving to-morrow.
The ethnologists recording daily adventures
among unknown tribes,
with anthropophagi met between luncheon and tea-time
in small clans ruled by magic we do not share:
a suburban bus-stop lonelier than jungle clearing –
nothing more strange
than our incomprehensible daily encounters.
Ours the plane-table survey of the desert,
the mind’s intersections
cobwebbing the squared paper of experience,
plotting the rare oasis, the wind eroded
fantastic rocky horizon black against sunsets –
promise or menace
the warm dawn after the starred night’s vigil may tell us.

About Archaeology Archives Administrator

Researchers in the archives of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Home of the Historic Environment Image Resource. Passionate about old photographs and fresh biscuits.
This entry was posted in Archives Progress, HEIR, Lantern Slides, Photography, Piggott, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Pictures and Poetry of the Himalayas

  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #5 | Doug's Archaeology

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