Taunting anthropologists and researchers, the elusive Yeti continues to confound science. Yeti-obsessed ecologist Daniel C Taylor, author of Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery, found a trail of footprints during a 1983 search of the Barun, but eventually concluded that it is more likely to be a bear. Yetis still court controversy as we saw recently with the aborted Visit Nepal Year 2020 painted sculptures that divided national opinion.
The closest I came to any Yeti was when American scientists, Jeff McNeely and E W Cronin stored a silver tin trunk of 1972 specimens from the Upper Barun Khola in the cupboard under the stairs in the Sanepa house. I vividly recall Jeff showing me the white plaster casts of alleged Yeti footprints, which have since gone missing.
The precious trunk was confiscated by customs at Kathmandu airport when British zoologist Andrew Laurie tried to ship it out for Jeff in late 1975. Andrew remembers: “A tranquilizing gun had inadvertently been packed in the bottom of the case, and I was nearly arrested for illegal possession of firearms.” The plaster footprints were siezed by customs officials as “national treasures” and never seen again. A recent attempt to trace the lost tin trunk in the government go-downs was unsuccessful.
As I return to my painstaking picture sorting, I reflect that after the onslaught of so many monsoon rains, there is unlikely to be anything left of the crumbling Yeti relics.
Watch clip of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World episode on Apemen.