April 9, 2010

China and Nepal agree on height of Mt. Everest, or whatever the heck it’s named

China and Nepal did little to demystify the tallest mountain on earth on April 8, when the two countries finally—finally—agreed how tall Mt. Everest actually is.

Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest

They agreed that the mountain, which traverses the border of the two countries, should be meters 8,848 meters tall (29,029 feet) above sea level. So, everyone agreed? No. The U.S. Geological Survey uses a different measurement, based on a 1999 GPS survey that puts the height at 8,850 meters.

Nor did the two countries agree on the name of the peak. English speakers recognize the name Mt. Everest, but it is also known as  Qomolangma Peak (Tibetan), Mount Sagarmāthā (Neapli), Chajamlungma (Limbu), Zhumulangma Peak (Chinese: Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng) or Mount Chomolungma.

Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest

The Chinese previously argued the mountain should be measured by its rock height. Nepal said it should be measured by its snow height, four meters higher.

During talks in Kathmandu, China relented.

This means the official overall height of Everest is now designated as 8,848 meters, except for those who want to stick to the USGS measurement. Nepal also recognized China’s claim that the rock height of Everest is 8,844 meters.

The dispute over the height of the mountain goes back many years.

George Everest

George Everest

The Great Trigonometric Survey of India established the first published height of Everest, then known as Peak XV, at 29,002 feet (8,840 meters) in 1865. One year later, the Royal Geographical Society gave Everest its English name on the recommendation of Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India at the time. He argued that Peak XV should be named after George Everest, his predecessor as Surveyor General of India.

Weirdly, Everest’s height, measured in feet, was calculated to be precisely 29,000 feet, but was publicly declared to be 29,002 because scientists wanted to avoid the impression that an exact height of 29,000 feet was not a rounded estimate.

VIDEO: Everest Summit Panorama

CITATIONS:

Take nothing for granted, not even the height of Mt. Everest
Digital Journal, March 8, 2010

Nepal and China agree on Mount Everest’s height
BBC News March 8, 2010

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