New Delhi: The Indian Army has, surprisingly, found something that has so far been mostly in the realm of fantasy popular culture — the mythical Yeti.
The Army tweeted a picture of “mysterious footprints” Monday to claim that its expedition team has spotted a Yeti trail.
“For the first time, an #IndianArmy Moutaineering Expedition Team has sited Mysterious Footprints of mythical beast ‘Yeti’ measuring 32×15 inches close to Makalu Base Camp on 09 April 2019. This elusive snowman has only been sighted at Makalu-Barun National Park in the past,” said the Army tweet.
For the first time, an #IndianArmy Moutaineering Expedition Team has sited Mysterious Footprints of mythical beast 'Yeti' measuring 32×15 inches close to Makalu Base Camp on 09 April 2019. This elusive snowman has only been sighted at Makalu-Barun National Park in the past. pic.twitter.com/AMD4MYIgV7
— ADG PI – INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) April 29, 2019
While it initially struggled to figure out if the Army was joking, social media soon sprung into action, making hay of the “new find”.
Either I’m missing the joke, or the Indian Army is claiming that it’s found what it believes is evidence of a literal yeti. 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/dTai7OFTBu
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) April 29, 2019
The Chinese have already captured and put him into re-education camp, under their ‘Yeti Bachao; Yeti Padhao’ scheme.
— Mihir Shah (@elmihiro) April 29, 2019
Undeterred by the endless mockery on social media, the Army held its position.
Speaking to ThePrint, an Army source said the “story was based on physical proofs of on-the-spot narration, photos and videos.” The Army thought that the new photographic evidence it found matched earlier theories regarding the Yeti.
“Tweeted as we thought prudent to excite scientific temper and rekindle the interest. Some of us who reject the story, surely shall have a definite answer to the evidences. As they say nature, history and science never write their final story,” added the Army source.
The Yeti story
The Yeti, or the ‘Abominable Snowman’, is a mythical ape-like creature, the mention of which has been prevalent in Nepali, Indian, Tibetan, Afghan, and Central Asian folklores. The legend finds resonance in other cultures too, where it pops up with different variations — Bigfoot (North America), Sasquatch (North America) and Chupacabra (Mexico).
Though these folklores have been around for centuries, they really gained global prominence in 1950s.
In 1951, a British photographer and renowned Mount Everest explorer, Eric Shipton published a photograph of an alleged Yeti footprint he encountered at the Menlung Glacier on the Nepal-Tibet border. Shipton’s photograph drew massive global attention to the story of the Yeti.
Three years later, British newspaper Daily Mail sent a huge expedition to the Himalayas in search of the Yeti. Several expeditions followed. One of them, led by the American oilman Tom Slick, had 500 porters and spent six long months in the field. But none of them yielded anything concrete.
One 2014 DNA study, which looked at hair samples attributed to the Yeti from Ladakh and Bhutan, found the closest “genetic affinity with a Palaeolithic polar bear”.
Over the years, scientists have not succeeded in finding any conclusive evidence to either prove or disprove the existence of the Yeti.
The one area where the Yeti has been found in abundance is popular culture.
The Belgian comic book reporter Tintin refers to Yeti in Tintin in Tibet. Even the classic US cartoon series Tom and Jerry has made a reference to the mythical creature, in the 1966 short The A-Tom-inable Snowman.
The popular amusement park Walt Disney World in Florida, USA, has a rollercoaster dedicated to the Yeti. It also routinely finds mention in Hollywood movies like the Disney-Pixar film Monsters, Inc. (2001), among others.
Even a 2017 Bengali film, Yeti Obhijaan, is based on the legend.
Other armies also fascinated
The Army may have got itself entangled in an unusual situation by entering the Yeti terrain, but the intrigue is understandable.
However, the Indian Army is not the only one to be fascinated by the legend of the snowman. The US military has had a long history of believing in Bigfoot, the close North American cousin of the Yeti legend.
While the Indian Army’s claims are guaranteed to remain in currency on social media for the next few hours (or days), the Indian political class too, as usual, has latched onto the latest comic element — and unsurprisingly, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alluded to the Yeti while talking about Congress president Rahul Gandhi.