The American Government's Advice for Yeti Hunters, 1959

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Feb. 26 2013 1:27 PM

The American Government's Advice for Yeti Hunters, 1959

The Vault is Slate's new history blog. Like us on Facebook; follow us on Twitter @slatevault; find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This Foreign Service memo treats a science-fictional subject—the existence of the Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman—with utmost bureaucratic seriousness. Titled “Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal—Relating to Yeti,” it was issued from the American Embassy in Kathmandu on November 30, 1959.

The memo came at the end of a decade of strenuous Yeti-hunting. This Outside Magazine timeline of Yeti hunts tells the story in compact form. In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest, and reported seeing large tracks. In 1954, the Daily Mail (UK) funded a sixteen-week “Snowman Expedition” to Everest to look for clues. (The newspaper is still on the case today.) And in the late 1950s, American oil millionaire and cryptozoology enthusiast Tom Slick—whose colorful life, as Badass Digest points out, should definitely be made into a movie—bankrolled a number of Himalayan expeditions in search of the creature.

Advertisement

Did the U.S. government believe in the Yeti, as some cryptozoologists took the memo to mean? The memo stipulated three rules: Yeti hunters must pay the Nepalese government for a permit; hunters can photograph, but not kill, any Yeti that surfaces, and must turn any photographs or captured Yeti over to Nepali officials; and new findings need to be filtered through Nepalese channels before going public.

These regulations were actually first issued by the government of Nepal in 1957. The U.S. established diplomatic relations with Nepal in 1947, and the embassy had just opened in 1959, when the memo was written. The Yeti presence in a State Department document doesn’t prove that the U.S. believed in the Snowmen. Rather, by reprinting the Nepalese government’s regulations, the embassy could show Nepal that the U.S. respected its sovereignty, even in the matter of hypothetical hairy beasts.

Thanks to Mark Murphy of the National Archives.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 4:33 PM Walmart Is Killing the Rest of Corporate America in Solar Power Adoption
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.