NOEL E. ODELL (1890-1987)
Oxygen cylinder used on the 1924 Everest expedition, with a folder containing the description and instructions for the oxygen equipment and, loosely inserted in the folder, correspondence from 1923 to 1925 concerning the performance and provision of oxygen on Everest expeditions.
Provenance: Noel E. Odell (and by descent).
The oxygen cylinder, made of aluminium-painted Vibrac steel by Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth & Co (length 65mm) and fitted with a stop valve made by Siebe Gorman & Co, is offered with the blue foolscap folder describing the oxygen apparatus to be used on the Mount Everest Expedition of 1924. After the 1922 attempt it had been recognised that oxygen was essential if the summit were to be reached; the dangers and shortcomings of the available equipment were equally clear and - in the extensive description provided to the expedition members - P.J.H. Unna accounts for the length of the report by explaining that, although it was originally intended to send out an abbreviated account aimed at those who would use it rather than this complete description written primarily for those acqauinted with the technical details, it had been impossible to tell what should be left out. Those with technical knowledge were relied on to instruct those who would have to use it. Along with the instructions a motor tyre pump, three old cylinders and connections were distributed for teaching purposes. The folder has a notice on the front alerting the recipient to the fact that it contains information that might be regarded as confidential by the Air Ministry, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research or the manufacturers, and that he should bear this in mind in dealings with the press.
The oxygen bottle is marked NO 11 8LBS 6OZS recording the weight of the cylinder when charged so that the availability of oxygen could be checked by using specially supplied scales; a climber carried three bottles at a time. The number 11 repeats the serial number stamped on the neck of the bottle: EOC (Everest Oxygen Cylinder) 11. Eighty-nine bottles were shipped to Calcutta in the S.S.Sardinia to arrive there on 25 February. It was calculated that the contents of a single bottle should last a man 18 hours. Once empty the oxygen cylinder was to be discarded.
Noel Odell was oxygen officer to the expedition, and the folder also contains eleven letters from various members of the team and the Mount Everest Committee, with six other documents, together approximately 11½ pages, 4to, in Odell's autograph, 10 pages, 8vo, 5½ pages, 4to, and 1 page, folio, in other hands, and 11½ pages, 4to, and 6½ pages, folio, typewritten. The letters discuss the performance and provision of oxygen, as well as other difficulties involved in the organisation of the expedition. The documents consist of memoranda on the operation of the oxygen equipment, a table of the weights of the cylinders, a catalogue of parts sent to the expedition and Odell's notes to the Mount Everest Committee discussing the effectiveness of the oxygen apparatus. (2)