Category Archives: Edmund Hillary

Thought of the Day 9.1.12 Edgar Rice Burroughs

“I write to escape…to escape poverty.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Русский: Эдгар Райс Берроуз

Edgar Rice Burroughs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born on this day in Chicago, Illinois in 1875. Today is the 137th anniversary of his birth.

He was the middle child Major George Burroughs and his wife Mary Evaline. His younger siblings died of childhood diseases, leaving him the baby of the family. He bounced around several different local schools. Whenever there was an outbreak of a disease his parents took him out of one school and put him in another.  Since schools taught Latin and Greek as well as English he later …

“his erratic schooling… resulted in his … learning little English while taking the same Greek and Latin courses over and over again. Despite his claims to the contrary, this early exposure to Classical literature and mythology would serve Burroughs well in his future writing career.” [The Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Mini-Bio]

When a flu epidemic swept through Chicago his parents sent a teenaged Edgar to his brothers’ cattle ranch in Idaho. He love the rough and tumble “wild west”  with its range wars and saloon shoot outs and he lived there for six months before his parents realized the danger of  frontier life was on par with the danger of getting influenza. They called him home and enrolled him in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He didn’t last long there and was soon transferred to the more structured  Michigan Military Academy. He failed the West Point entrance exam  and signed up for the Army  as a private where he served with the 7th US Cavalry at Fort Grant, Arizona Territory. He was discharged from the Army for a heart condition in 1897.

In 1899 he was back in Chicago working for his father ‘s company, and the next year he married his childhood sweetheart, Emma Hulbert. After a few years he and Emma travelled west to Idaho so he could try his luck with his brothers again, this time at gold mining. But that venture soon went bust and Burroughs went through a number of jobs from railway policeman to peddler for quack medicine.

One of his jobs was as a pencil sharpener wholesaler. He placed ads for the pencil sharpeners in pulp fiction magazines and he would read through the magazines to check the placement of the ads.

“After reading several thousand words of breathless pulp fiction Burroughs determined … that ‘if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.'” [The Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Mini-Bio]

Cover of "Under the Moons of Mars: A Prin...

Cover via Amazon

In fact he had already written stories, but his introduction into the pulp fiction market with Under the Moons of Mars,  for which he received a whopping $400 from All-Story magazine, was a turning point in his career. The story was serialized  in the magazine and produced as a novel under its original name of A Princess of Mars. By the time the last installment was published in July of 1912 Burroughs had completed two more novels. The Outlaw of Torn and Tarzan of the Apes. Outlaw was not picked up by the publisher, but Tarzan was an immediate hit. Burroughs got $700 for the book. He wrote a number of sequels for both Mars (11, including John Carter of Mars) and Tarzan (26).

Dustjacket by Armstrong Sperry for the first e...

Dustjacket by Armstrong Sperry for the first edition of Tarzan and the Lost Empire by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other book series by Burroughs includes:

  • The Pellucidar series, which takes place in the hollow shell of the Earth (7 books, including one featuring a cross over appearance from Tarzan).
  • The Venus series, where Carson Napier, who is attempting a solo flight to Mars, crash lands instead on the watery planet of Venus. — look for a film made from the series coming out next year. (5 books)
  • The Caspak series, a prehistoric series, including The Land That Time Forgot (3 books)

He crossed writing genres at will penning social realism, horror stories, and westerns (and more).

Burroughs was living in Honolulu,  Hawaii when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He volunteered  to serve the war effort as a war correspondent  (the oldest in the Pacific theatre).

He died on March 19, 1950.

English: Bookplate of American writer Edgar Ri...

English: Bookplate of American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) showing Tarzan holding the planet Mars, surrounded by other characters from Burroughs’ stories and symbols relating to the author’s personal interests and career. Associated media: File:Letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Ruthven Deane 1922.jpg explaining the design of his bookplate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Thought of the Day 7.20.12

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”

–Sir Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary circa 1953 taken by an unidentified photographer. (Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia)http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4a/Commons-logo.svg

Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand on this day in 1919. He would have turned 93 today.

Hillary’s interest in mountain climbing was sparked on a field trip at 16 to Mount Ruapehu.  The first mountain he climbed was Mount Ollivier in the Sealy Range on the country’s South Island in 1939. He became a beekeeper with his brother Rex, an occupation that left ample time for mountain climbing in the off season.

During WWII he joined the RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force)  as a navigator.

Aoraki/Mount Cook in Winter. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Commons-logo.svg

After the War he continued to climb his own country’s mountains, concurring Aorki/Mount Cook (New Zealand’s highest peak) in January of 1948. Next he travelled to Europe and tackled the Alps.

In 1951 Hillary went to the Himalayas. He joined expeditions in 1951 and 1952 to recon Everest. In 1952 He was part of a team that attempted (but didn’t reach) the summit of Cho Oyu from the South side.

And in 1953 he was part of team to attempt 29,035ft summit of Everest. The group established 9 camps on the mountain (some of which are still in use today.) On May 26 the first team, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans tried for the peak. They got to about 300 ft from the summit but had to turn back. Problems with their oxygen tanks, bad weather and a fall had worked against them.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their return from the summit.

So, the second team, Hillary and Tenzin Norgay made preparations for the ultimate climb. They woke early, but Hillary’s frozen boots  caused a 2 hour delay before they set off to forge the summit. They left camp at 6:30 pm. Almost at the top of the mountain they encountered a nearly vertical  40ft rock face. Hillary found a way to climb it by wedging his way up a crack. (The rock formation is now called the “Hillary Step.”) at 11:30 on May 29th, 1953 the two men stood at the top of the world.

Tenzing Norgay on the summit of Mt. Everest as photographed by Edmund Hillary on May 29, 1953. Norgay offered to take a photograph of Hillary, but the later declined. They spent 15 minutes at the top of the World. They documented the event (to confirm that the ascent was not a fake); looking for any evidence that a previous team who had disappeared on the mountain might have made the summit (they didn’t find any); and leaving offerings of thanksgiving (Tenzing left chocolates, Hillary left a cross. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.)

Hillary‘s itch to explore turned to the Antarctic and in 1955-1958 he led the New Zealand party of  the Commonwealth Tran-Antarctic expedition  and participated in the first mechanized expedition tot he South Pole.

In 1985 he joined with another famous explorer, Neil Armstrong,  for a flight over the Arctic Ocean. The two landed at the North Pole, and Hillary became the first person to reach the northern most, southern most and highest point on Earth. (Armstrong, of course had gone a bit further.)

In 1992 New Zealand honored Hillary by putting his image on a $5 note. Since He was still alive this was a break with convention. (He is the only person to be awarded such an honor during his lifetime other than a head of state.) (Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia)

He returned to Nepal in the 1960s on several philanthropic missions to help the people. There he helped build clinics, hospitals and schools for the Nepalese people.  He enlisted the help of the New Zealand government to provide aid and technical support to Nepal in setting up the agencies needed to establish and run Everest National Park and the tourist industry that grew around climbing the peak. He spent the rest of his life working to help the Nepalese people.

Mount Everest (Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia)


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