1889 (ca.): Major Waddell's Yeti Prints

In 1899, Major Laurence Austine Waddell released his book Among The Himalayas, which told the story of his trips through the high mountain ranges ten years previously. In this text, he noted a slightly interesting event that occured during a trip in the Eastern range of the Himalayas near Darjeeling, India, which took place roughly ten years earlier, around 1889.

        While crossing a pass towards some glaciers, Waddell and his crew discovered large footprints in the snow that crossed their track and headed up towards the higher peaks. The natives in his crew told him these belonged to "hairy wild men" who they believed lived in the snowy mountains. Waddell had a different opinion: he felt the creature was purely mythical, to be compared to tales told of "white lions, whose roar is reputed to be heard during storms." He stated in his book his belief that the tracks belonged to the "great yellow snowbear (Ursus isabellinus), which is highly carnivorus, and often kills yaks." He felt that the superstitions of the natives was such that they couldn't look at the bear's tracks without telling themselves they belonged to the wild men.

        And thus ended his one paragraph account of seeing the tracks in the snow.

The Story Grows

        Well after the publication of Waddell's book, his description was re-discovered -- and re-interpreted -- by English language publications looking for evidence of the hairy wild men of the Himalayas, now called the Yeti or "The Abominable Snowman." The earliest of these was Earl Denman's Alone to Everest, published in 1954, which mentions Waddell finding the tracks as the earliest examples of mystery prints attributed to the Yeti, but doesn't say anything about Waddell's opinion of them belonging to a bear. This was likely the source for an article in Popular Science three years later, in December 1957, which was instrumental in the formation of the story of the 'abominable snowman' for most readers. The article was entitled "Science Closes in on 'Wild Man' of Everest," and largely consisted of single sentence sum-ups of the proposed evidence to date, written in spectacular style and each presented with a dramatic illustration... in this case, Waddell is shown marveling over two clearly bi-pedal footprints with four distinct toe marks each, which are described as "manlike" in the text. And so Waddell's great yellow bear became the abominable snowman in almost all following re-tellings of Waddell's experience.

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