“Reading: … ” Book of the Year 2013 (Non-Fiction): Mike Searle — Colliding Continents: A Geological Exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram, & Tibet

Mike Searle — Colliding Continents
Mike Searle — Colliding Continents

Reading: Mike Searle — Colliding Continents: A geological exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Tibet

Here comes a deluge of serious reading. Well, another serious than the sci-fi I’ve been on of late (though with a new one from Charles Stross, and Iain Banks’ – sadly sans-M – last one in the next weeks, I’m well-stocked for that flavour of serious), or perhaps gratuitously indulgent, after all, what could be more appealing that bloody massive upheavals of granite which can be either climbed or geologised, or in the case of Mike Searle’s Colliding Continents, both at the same time?

This turned up in my feed from Oxford University Press’ blog, and I decided to dispense with the actual reading of their post for the important act of ordering the book. Which arrived on Saturday, and which, obviously, I’ve devoured a third of already.

This is one of those very nice, medium-large hardcovers with barely a page empty of maps, illustrations, diagrams, or more importantly utterly gorgeous photographs of mountains. It’s light on the technical side of geology, meaning someone with no prior knowledge of the subject would nonetheless not feel bewildered, yet equally there’s a lot of terms even I, who used to slip into the Geology department and temporarily purloin monographs of the Karakoram had to pause to visualise what was actually meant. Lucky there’s 30 pages of appendices covering all of this, and I think reading those first is probably a good idea.

Quite a bit of my interest in that region where Tibet becomes Central Asia becomes Indian subcontinent comes from geology. Also it comes from Deleuze and Guattari and reading of Steppe nomads, then looking at maps and trying to pin into that vast blankness between the Black Sea and the east coast of China names like Gobi, Taklamakan, Kashgar, Karakoram. Vast and blank indeed. So I set out to rectify my ignorance, becoming years – probably a lifetime as I’ve never been bored by this – of reading and reading and yes, still planning to go there.

A book like this is mainly a small moment of satisfying this love of mountains and this part of the world, and it does both superbly. Searle is one of those sensible geologists who realise early on it’s the obvious career choice for someone who thinks suffering their way up glaciers and cliffs is most excellent fun, and whose love of both subjects only adds to his abilities in each.

The only thing that’s missing for me is a map or maps of his annual-ish field trips. There are plenty of geological maps accompanying each chapter but either my map-reading skills have descended to bathic levels, I’m missing something fundamental, or there’s a lack of correlation between those maps and the paths of the journeys he undertook. Perhaps unnecessary, but for me this would be an essential inclusion.

So, 464 pages of mountains! The cover pretty much sums it up; it’s all just a lover’s ode to the most beautiful upthrusting of granite in the world.

Mike Searle — Colliding Continents
Mike Searle — Colliding Continents

Reading: Matthew T. Kapstein – The Tibetans

Matthew T. Kapstein - The Tibetans
Matthew T. Kapstein – The Tibetans

shooting them like rats, dogs

A truly disgusting start to yesterday was reading about climbers in Tibet on Cho Oyu watching the Chinese Army massacre a group of Tibetan Refugees who were trying to cross Nangpa La into Nepal. China claims the soldiers, firing for 15 minutes on the starving refugees were acting in self defense. Do you still feel like going to the Beijing Olympics?

Update:

From International Campaign for Tibet, via China Digital Times 中国数字时代 is video from a Romanian cameraman. The video clearly depicts that the Tibetans had their backs to the soldiers, were unarmed, and offered no resistance.

China tries to gag climbers who saw Tibet killings – Leonard Doyle

From the Independent:

Chinese diplomats in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu are tracking down and trying to silence hundreds of Western climbers and Sherpas who witnessed the killing of Tibetan refugees on the Nangpa La mountain pass last week.

This ominous development comes as fears grow for the safety of a group of Tibetan children, aged between six and 10, who were marched away after at least two refugees including a nun, were shot dead. [Full text]

Read a first person account from a Romanian climber who witnessed the killing. More information from climbers is available on Mounteverest.net, though some bloggers feel not enough climbers are coming forward to tell their story.

≈ For more on this story, see “Activist Group Says China Holding Tibetan Children” from VOA and a report from Phayul which includes eyewitness accounts of the incident. From VOA:

A Washington-based activist group says China is holding at least 10 children from a group of Tibetans who were fired on by Chinese security forces near the Tibetan border with Nepal last month.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the International Campaign for Tibet quotes a British mountain climber and several other witnesses who say they saw Chinese forces shoot at a group of about 70 Tibetans on Mount Cho Oyu September 30. The Tibetans are said to have been trying to flee into Nepal.

See also: This topic on the Web, via Google News.

This topic on the blogosphere, via Google Blog Search.

— China Digital Times 中国数字时代

body of the Tibetan nun, left in a snow path
body of the Tibetan nun, left in a snow path
Chinese officers with captured Tibetan children
Chinese officers with captured Tibetan children

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