1925: N.A. Tombazi’s Yeti Sighting

The Legend:

In 1925, an Italian photographer named N.A. Tombazi was making a tour through the Sikkim area of the Himalayas taking scenic photographs. He was ten miles from the Zemu gap when he was called from his tent by his porters. They pointed his attention to a dark object on the snow "two or three hundred yards away down the valley." In outline the figure was like a human being, walking upright, and it occasionally stopped to uproot or pull at the dwarf rhododendron bushes; although dark in color, as far as Tombazi could see, he felt the figure was wearing no clothes. A minute or so later it had walked into some thick scrub and been lost to view.

        The whole event was so sudden and short that Tombazi had been unable to photograph anything, or even pull out binoculars; but a couple of hours later Tombazi traveled to the spot the figure had been seen at to investigate. In his words:

"I examined the footprints which were clearly visible on the surface of the snow. They were similar in shape to those of a man, but only six to seven inches long by four inches wide at the broadest part of the foot. The marks of five distinct toes and of the instep were perfectly clear, but the trace of the heel was indistinct, and the little that could be seen of it appeared to narrow down to a point. I counted fifteen such footprints at regular intervals ranging from one-and-a-half to two feet. The prints were undoubtedly of a biped, the order of the spoor having no characteristics whatever of any imaginable quadruped. Dense rhododendron scrub prevented any further investigations as to the direction of the footprints, and threatening weather compelled me to resume the march. From inquiries I made a few days later at Yoksun, on my return journey, I gathered that no man had gone in the direction of Jongri since the beginning of the year."

        Due to Tombazi's inquiries news services heard about his sighting, and soon fantastic reports were in newspapers worldwide... reports which stated the footprints were much larger than Tombazi had actually seen. The natives in the party felt the figure was one of the legendary wildmen they had grown up hearing about; Tombazi wasn't willing to accept that answer, but could come up with no alternative explanation that made sense to him. The one thing he was very sure of was that the figure he saw was distinctly shaped like a human being.

My Source's Source

        The details of his sighting were published by Tombazi in his 1926 book, Account of a Photographic Expedition to the Southern Glaciers of Kangchenjunga in the Sikkim Himalaya... but I must note right now that I have not yet actually found a copy of Tombazi's book because it was a very limited print run, and it is very difficult and expensive to track down. Therefore, I take Tombazi's description of his encounter from a 1949 article in the BBC magazine The Listener, which claims to quote verbatim from Tombazi's book. So here's the quandry: if this actually is a verbatim quote, then Tomabazi's encounter is strong evidence of the existence of some sort of unknown humanoid creature in the Himalayas. If, however, this "quote" is pure fiction, then the whole value of this account goes up in smoke. Thus, until I can see the original account in Tombazi's book itself, this story must be considered as evidence only with great care... and the statement above will remain labeled as "The Legend."

        There is one source I've found that is earlier than The Listener article, but it doesn't present as distinct a statement about the matter. In Attack On Everest, published in 1936 by Neil MacIntyre, the whole event is stated in just one paragraph, yet also gives a slightly different version of the story. MacIntyre claimed that Tombazi had examined the creature through "powerful glasses," and that the footprints were like those of a man, six inches long, and spread outwards at the toes. MacIntyre's book was quoted by the famous 1952 Popular Science article on the Yeti, "The World's Most Mysterious Footprints," and so it has been MacIntyre's version of the Tombazi story that has been repeated the most.

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