Sunday, November 27, 2005

Clothes of 1924 head for Everest

By Virginia Phillips BBC Science staff
I think Mallory and Irvine did actually climb the mountain in 1924 Graham Hoyland
When mountaineer Graham Hoyland returns to Mount Everest next year, he will not be clad in modern hi-tech fibres with tog ratings and windchill factor reduction.
Instead, he'll be sporting replicas of garments last taken to the Himalayas in 1924, on the ill-fated expedition of George Mallory and Andrew (Sandy) Irvine which left both pioneers dead.
Whether they reached the summit before succumbing to Everest's harsh conditions is unclear.
They have acquired a reputation for a somewhat amateurish approach, based in part on photographs taken at base camp showing them wearing the English gentleman's attire of plus fours and tweed jackets.
Hoyland is a great nephew of another of the expedition's members, and six years ago was one of the team which discovered Mallory's final resting place.
"When we found his body it was a mixture of horror and amazement," he told the BBC's Science in Action programme.
So why would Hoyland, a seven-time Everest veteran, even be contemplating going back to the mountain with the same designs and fabrics?
Part of the answer is that Mallory and Irvine swapped their plus fours for much more appropriate attire when they began their ascent.
"Even when we found the body," said Graham Hoyland, "it was obvious that he had layer upon layer of thin garments, although the clothes were in tatters."
The layers were of silk, cotton and wool, alternating beneath an outer covering of tough gabardine.
"The typical myth of Mallory was that he was under-equipped and amateurish," said Mary Rose, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University in the UK, who was inspired by the discovery of Mallory's body to attempt a recreation of his wardrobe.
In fact, she said: "We've found that he understood his clothing probably better than modern climbers.
"It was quite an advanced system; the silk gave wind-proofing, and the silk and woollen layers moved off each other so it was quite easy to climb."
Reconstructing the past
It's ideal for trapping air next to the skin, giving better insulation Vanessa Anderson
Professor Rose worked closely with outdoor clothing manufacturers and researchers at other institutions.
Vanessa Anderson, a performance sportswear masters student from the University of Derby, recreated several items including Mallory's cotton leggings.
"It's a knitted fabric using a tuck stitch which gives a 3d structure - similar to a honeycomb effect," she said.
"It's ideal for trapping air next to the skin, giving better insulation."
From historical documents and the remains of Mallory's cotton leggings, Vanessa Anderson painstakingly reconstructed the 80-year old yarns and knitting patterns to recreate the garment.
She has also reconstructed the gabardine jacket which Mallory wore. It was initially developed as a shooting jacket, with a 'pivot sleeve', allowing arm movement over the head without exposing the midriff to a nasty chill; perfect for mountaineering.
Testing times
The researchers have also found that Mallory's apparel weighed much less than modern equivalents.
This, said Mary Rose, has inspired outdoor clothing manufacturers to reconsider the role of natural fibres; though the reconstructed clothes need to be tested in Himalayan conditions.
"If you simply simulate you won't understand the tacit knowledge behind the clothing," she said.
"Actually testing it in the field gets you a real sense of how the clothing performs."
This is what Graham Hoyland hopes to discover when he tries it out on Everest next year.
"I guess I will find it much easier to move across the terrain, but I imagine the wind will be really cutting," he said.
"I think Mallory and Irvine did actually climb the mountain in 1924, and certainly there's nothing in this clothing to suggest they didn't."
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/25 14:50:11 GMT© BBC MMV

Worm eggs may tackle inflammation

Eggs from a parasitic worm may hold the key to treating inflammatory conditions such as lung diseases and psoriasis.
Scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, focused on the worm, Schistosoma mansoni, which infects humans.
They found it releases a molecule with strong anti-inflammatory qualities which are particularly effective in battling against acute inflammations.
The study, which could lead to new treatments, is published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
I see the worm as the 'drug cabinet' of the future Dr Padraic Fallon
Researcher Dr Padraic Fallon said: "This study is particularly exciting as it harnesses how the worm modifies immunity in our bodies to stimulate protection from undesirable inflammation.
"There is a clear potential to build new treatments for major disease of man using this approach.
"In effect I see the worm as the 'drug cabinet' of the future."
Schistosome worms infect over 250 million people in tropical countries.
There is evidence that infection with schistosomes may protect humans from other disease, such as allergies.
Dr Fallon's research group has already shown that experimental infections with schistosomes can prevent anaphylaxis and asthma-like lung inflammation.
However, infection with the worm can cause illness and death, so it would be inappropriate to infect people intentionally.
Therefore the researchers are trying to identify what part of the worm can be used to treat such disease as allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dr Fallon said: "Our strategy is to develop new drugs for human diseases by exploiting mechanisms and molecules that worms have developed over millions of years of co-evolution with man."
Much research
Dr Michael Doenhoff, of the University of Bangor, is working on the same worm, hoping to show that it could be used to lower cholesterol levels and thus cut the risk of heart disease.
He said many scientists across the world were testing the potential medical properties of parasitic worms.
For instance, a US team is infecting volunteers with an intestinal round worm, and a team in Nottingham is conducting similar experiments with hookworms.
Dr Doenhoff said while bacteria and viruses tended to cause short-term infections in humans, worms, and some rudimentary protozoan creatures, often had a longer term relationship with their host.
"They must be incredibly well adapted to living inside our bodies," he said.
"And part of that adaptation must involve modulation of the immune response."
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 00:14:57 GMT© BBC MMV

Marines 'violent bullying' probed

A criminal inquiry is being carried out after a film apparently showing a Royal Marine recruit being beaten unconscious was leaked to a newspaper.
The footage, obtained by the News of the World, appears to show two naked men being forced to fight each other as part of an initiation ceremony.
One marine then appears to be kicked in the face by a third, allegedly one of his superiors in 42 Commando.
The Ministry of Defence said bullying in the military would not be tolerated.
The MoD also said it was "very far from an official training exercise" and that it was trying to establish what lay "behind" the video.
'Naked fighting'
The newspaper said the footage had been filmed covertly by another marine at 42 Commando's base at Bickleigh Barracks, near Plymouth in May.
Twelve new recruits who had just finished their 32-week commando training were alleged to have taken part in the initiation ritual, while around 40 other marines - also stripped naked - watched.
The fight appears to have been "directed" by two non-commissioned officers. One was dressed in a surgeon's outfit, the other dressed as a schoolgirl.
The Royal Marines take these allegations extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy on bullying and harassment Ministry of Defence
The marine who filmed the alleged fight told the newspaper the ritual was more than drunken antics and that the protagonists were forced to fight in a humiliating manner.
The images show two naked men in the centre of a large group who at first appear to fight with large mats rolled round their arms.
But then a man dressed in a blue surgeon-style outfit motions for them to use bare fists.
When one of the recruits complains, the man appears to kick him in the face, allegedly leaving him unconscious on the grass.
'Taken seriously'
The MoD has appointed the Royal Military Police to carry out an investigation.
An MoD spokesman said: "The Royal Marines take these allegations extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy on bullying and harassment."
He would not comment on the detail of the allegations because of the ongoing investigation, but added: "Bullying and harassment is not widespread within the Armed Forces.
"Behaviour of this kind will not be tolerated and every effort is made to apply this policy rigorously."
Why are they naked for goodness sake? Colonel Bob Stewart
A former Commander of British forces in Bosnia, Colonel Bob Stewart, said the footage shocked him to the core and that it would appal 42 Commando too.
"It is some form of initiation ceremony. It is clearly booze fuelled.
"It is clearly some kind of party and it is absolutely wrong and horrific, simply because this is not what our soldiers should be undergoing".
But if it was some kind of party, the fun ended pretty quickly, he said, adding: "Why are they naked for goodness sake?"
The Conservative party's spokesman for homeland security Patrick Mercer said he had come across this sort of thing occasionally during his 26 years in the Army.
Assault investigated
"I can't tell you how damaging it is," he said.
"Just imagine a young man turning up in his unit and being made to wrestle naked in a field while his non-commissioned officers are dressed up in women's frillies. I mean, it's not very dignified stuff, is it?"
But he added that strenuous efforts were being made in the Armed Forces to prevent such things from happening.
The BBC's defence correspondent Paul Wood said the MoD and superior officers in the elite 42 Commando would be appalled by what was shown on the tape.
"There is consensus that this kind of thing is wrong and has to be stamped out," he said.
"The crucial distinction is between simple drunken antics and bullying - something which these men are forced to do."
He added that although the MoD had not commented about the nature of its investigation, the criminal aspect of it centred on whether the man shown to be knocked unconscious in the video was assaulted.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 09:56:03 GMT© BBC MMV

Afghan army 'stops Kabul blast'

The Afghan national army has arrested six people driving cars packed with explosives into Kabul, the defence ministry spokesman has told the BBC.
"The Afghan national army and other security forces have stopped a very dangerous attack which could have taken innocent lives," Gen Zaher Azimi said.
Meanwhile, the governor of the eastern Nangarhar province has said he was the target of a failed suicide attack.
And four Afghan policemen who were feared abducted are now back at base.
Gen Azimi said the defence ministry and International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) had launched an investigation into the attempted attack in Kabul.
He said the army had seized two cars, one of which, a land cruiser, contained explosives and a gas cylinder, as well as weapons and communications equipment.
Afghan security officials say they fear more attacks in Kabul.
Earlier this month, eight people were killed in two suspected suicide car bomb attacks.
Nangarhar incident
Also on Saturday, Gul Agha Sherizi, Governor of Nangarhar province, told reporters he had been planning to visit the road construction site where a bomb exploded on Friday night.
He had visited the area several times over the past few days and believed that he was the target of Friday's attack.
He said the attempted suicide attack must have been carried out by a foreigner, not an Afghan.
The director of security in Jalalabad earlier told the BBC that a man had died while trying to plant the bomb.
Eyewitnesses told the BBC that at least three civilians were injured in the blast.
'Hekmatyar stronghold'
A spokesman for the interior ministry told AFP news agency that four policemen, feared abducted after another militant attack in Logar province, returned home late on Saturday.
Logar's deputy police chief told the BBC that Taleban fighters had attacked a police station and taken the four men.
But an intelligence official accused Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami group of carrying out the attack.
Logar is a stronghold of the Hezb-e-Islami.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a former mujahideen leader, who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
He fled Kabul when the Taleban came to power in 1996, but is now reported to be engaged in the struggle against US- and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Swedish soldier
In a separate incident, a Swedish soldier died as a result of injuries caused by a roadside bomb blast in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday.
Another soldier is in a "very serious" condition, the Swedish armed forces said in a statement. Two other soldiers were injured in the explosion.
There are about 100 Swedish troops in the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan.
More than 1,200 people have been killed in violence linked to militancy in Afghanistan this year.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/26 15:51:41 GMT© BBC MMV

India bus death tolls reach 77

At least 77 bodies have been recovered after two packed passenger buses were swept away in floods in India's Tamil Nadu state, officials say.
Search operations are continuing and it is feared that the death toll could rise further.
In one incident, in Thanjavur district, 50 bodies have been found. In the other in Ramnad district, 27 were killed.
Heavy rain has been falling in the area for the past week, flooding villages and thousands of hectares of land.
The disaster in Thanjavur district happened near Pattukkottai. The driver is believed to have lost control of his heavily crowded vehicle as it was crossing a flooded river.
The district administration has mounted a massive search and rescue operation.
Earlier in the day, a bus travelling from the city of Tiruchchirappalli to Rameswaram on the coast was swept away by flash floods.
The bus was swept from a bridge into the Sarugani river. Naval helicopters were scrambled to help the rescue operation.
Rescuers said the bus plunged from a causeway at a point where the Sarugani river merges with the Indian Ocean.
Police told Associated Press the driver and conductor were arrested for defying a police order not to cross the bridge.
The BBC's TN Gopalan in Madras says Tamil Nadu has received exceptionally heavy rains in the north-east monsoon that broke in the third week of October.
Before Friday, around 100 lives had been lost and hundreds of huts washed away.
The most recent heavy spell of rain started a few days ago and has been particularly intense in southern regions.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/26 09:28:12 GMT© BBC MMV