Heart-wrenching video shows final moments of Nanda Devi climbers; salvaged toy penguin adds to emotional distress
New Delhi: A heart-wrenching video of the final moments of an international team of climbers being swept away in an avalanche in an attempt to scale an unconquered Himalayan peak is going viral online, after being released by authorities on Monday.
The 154-second clip shows the team of climbers - four British citizens, two Americans and an Australian along with their Indian guide - working their way along a narrow ridge towards a snow-capped peak. The climbers are shown clinging together and bound by a rope, taking slow, careful steps under bright sunshine.
The screen abruptly goes blank after a few moments of this footage. Vivek Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), describes the visual as follows, "Suddenly we noticed a loud noise. The video went blank and stopped."
"They were crossing a very dangerous ridge. The snow cornice must have given away because of their weight, triggering an avalanche," he was quoted as saying in various reports.
The camera which gave this evidence was being carried by the final climber in the line and was uncovered from the snow, at the location where the seven bodies were uncovered.
Authorities have said that an eighth climber, the British team leader Martin Moran, is still missing.
Apart from Martin Moran, the team of climbers included the Brits John McLaren, Rupert Whewell and University of York lecturer Richard Payne, American nationals Anthony Sudekum and Ronald Beimel, Australian Ruth McCance and guide Chetan Pandey.
Last visuals of the mountaineers' team near the summit on unnamed peak near the #NandaDevi east. ITBP search team of mountaineers found the memory video device at 19K ft while they were searching the area where bodies were spotted. pic.twitter.com/0BI87MEA8Y— ITBP (@ITBP_official) July 8, 2019
APS Nambadia, the ITBP deputy inspector general who planned the operation to retrieve the bodies, was quoted by reports saying, "It was mesmerising for us to see the footage."
APS Nambadia went on to address a press briefing saying, "It will help us to analyse what went wrong with their mission."
"The GoPro has proved to be like the black box of an aircraft giving an insight into the last few moments of the climbers," he was quoted as saying.
"Put our lives at risk," Nambadia said, adding that the operation to find the bodies at an altitude of 6,100 metres was "extremely challenging".
According to reports, while twelve climbers had embarked on the expedition, only four Britons were rescued after breaking away from the main group.
The missing climbers last communicated on May 26, a day before heavy snowfall was recorded in the region.
Reports add that on June 3, the bodies and climbing equipment were spotted in the snow by a military helicopter, but several attempts to airlift the bodies were aborted due to fierce winds and the difficult terrain.
गुड़िया...— Vivek Kumar Pandey / विवेक कुमार पाण्डेय (@vivekitbp) July 4, 2019
While retrieving the bodies, ITBP mountaineers were so emotional to see this Penguin doll at the site from where dead bodies retrieved in the #NandaDevi search mission. Some belongings of those mountaineers. pic.twitter.com/W5K69soNes
Subsequently, the ITBP then sent its expert climbers on foot to bring the bodies down. ITBP director general SS Deswal said the rescue team risked their own lives to retrieve the bodies "with respect and dignity".
Ratan Singh Sonal, an ITBP officer who led the rescue team, was also quoted as saying, "We put our own lives at risk and undertook the operation by foot. We slept with the dead bodies on the side for days."
Sonal was quoted as saying, "At night we would bury the bodies under snow outside our tents to slow down the decomposition process."
"But we were not afraid. We felt we are all a part of humanity," Sonal was quoted saying.
Nambadia added that the exhausted rescue team almost cracked emotionally when they found the climbers' belongings which included a toy penguin.
"They were emotionally charged when they found the baby (toy) penguin. It was symbolic of the emotions of a mountaineer and my team could relate to it," Nambadia was quoted as saying.
Developing reports are picking up on other clues along the trail, even as the video is causing many a viewer to fill up with emotions over the disaster.