Not Pic of the Day 6-26-08. Getting High - 'Mount Everest'

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Not Pic of the Day 6-26-08. Getting High - 'Mount Everest'

Postby jgh » Jun 26, 2008 6:09 am

Identifying the highest point on earth wasn’t a simple process. The British were great explorers in the 19th century, but it wasn’t enough to just go places. They needed to measure and record and name every river and tributary and valley and mountain in their vast empire. So it makes sense that in 1808 they started the Great Trigonometric Survey of India.

You’ve probably seen a surveyor using a transit, the instrument used to make sightings, determine levels, and establish boundaries. The official name for this instrument is a theodolite.

Starting in southern India, the survey teams took huge theololites weighing 1100 pounds and requiring 10 men to carry them, and used them to measure angles and record data on every geophysical feature in India. This data could then be used to calculate elevations and distances.

As they got to the Himalayas, they knew the highest mountain on earth was one of the many peaks – but which one? This huge crumpled area of soaring peaks was difficult even to get into, much less measure. And then there were the political difficulties. Nepal was skeptical of British intentions (imagine that!) and wouldn’t allow the teams in, so they had to take their sightings from the south.

In 1847, a peak named Kangchenjunga was considered to be the highest. Andrew Waugh, the Surveyor General, noted with interest a peak about 140 miles farther away. It was given the auspicious name “Peak b.” It took two years to get a team , under the direction of James Nicholson, close enough to take measurements. At this point the name of the peak was changed to the catchy moniker “Peak XV.” Nicholson developed malaria and had to return home, so it would be four more years before Radhanath Sikdar, an Indian mathematician and surveyor from Bengal, would use the data to calculate Peak XV as the highest in the world. It took two more years before Waugh was willing to certify the official height as 29,002 feet.

Fun fact – their calculations actually gave the height as 29,000 feet but they were concerned that people would think that the number was a rounded estimate, so they arbitrarily added 2 feet!

Then there was the matter of the name. Here in America we continue to have bad feelings about the highest peak in North America. The peak, located in Alaska, had a perfectly good name – Denali – long before white people came to the area. The US Government, who legally bought Alaska from the Russians who stole it from the native peoples, arbitrarily changed the name of the mountain to Mt. McKinley. The current compromise has the national park surrounding it called Denali NP while the peak itself is still officially McKinley. Given the choice between the Athabascan name, meaning “The Big One” and an assassinated American president, I’ll go with Denali every time.

The British actually showed some sensitivity to using local names when possible. Both Kangchenjunga and Dhaulagiri retain their local names. But politics once more created barriers. Both Tibet and Nepal were closed to the British, and even though the local name for this peak had been Chomolungma and that name even appears on a map published in 1733 in Paris… Waugh decided that no local name could be established and that the British should assign a new name.

Waugh proposed naming the peak for his predecessor in the post of Surveyor General, George Everest. Thus Peak XV became officially Mount George.

No… I kid…

Actually, George Everest opposed the proposed name. He told the Royal Geographical Society that Everest could not be written in Hindi nor pronounced by “the native of India.” Over his objections, the society officially adopted the name Mount Everest.


So what is the tallest hosta on earth? (yes… this is a forum about hostas…) One would have to define the terms. I think the “on earth” part is simple as there have been no hosta populations verified on other celestial bodies. (And speaking of celestial bodies… have you seen the new Angelina Jolie movie?!) Ahemmmm…. But to determine what is the tallest hosta, we’d have to agree on whether we are talking about the height of the leaf clump or the flower scape.

Traditionally, the scapes of ‘Elatior’ and hostas associated with nigrescens have been considered the tallest.

But for most of us, we think of the height of the hosta as the clump height. And I don’t know the answer about the tallest. In my garden it would be a run-off between Abba Dabba Do, Sum & Substance and its sports, and the Montanas.

Which brings us to today’s featured hosta. (Whewwww… you thought I’d never get here!)

For years the Montanas have provided us with some of the best garden plants ever. 'Montana Aureomarginata' remains a favorite. 'On Stage' is also great. Some people swear by 'Choko Nishiki'. Newer varieties, such as 'Paradise Backstage', show great promise. The greens and yellows have done fine – but the white-edged Montana, 'Mountain Snow', has been difficult. It tends to emerge late and be a very very slow grower. Given the vigor of the rest of the clan, it is kind of odd that we don’t have a lot of choices for a vigorous white-margined Montana.

H. ‘Mount Everest’ might be a good substitute for some folks. Zilis lists it in the Handbook under the “similar” hostas in the Mountain Snow entry. It’s not a true Montana – it is a Sea Prize X Montana hybrid. I wouldn’t call it all that similar. I’d consider the margins to be yellow into cream, not the pure white of Mountain Snow. Still, 'Mt. Everest' has been an “easy” hosta for me… reasonable vigor, no pest problems, nice form… and it seems to tolerate a lot of sun.

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Not Pic of the Day 6-26-08. Getting High - 'Mount Everest'



Postby newtohosta-no more » Jun 26, 2008 6:50 am

:lol: I've started to try and guess early on what hosta you're going to share with us, but I missed it again! (although you did mention the one I was thinking of :
Mountain Snow).
Another fascinating read, Jim! I always enjoy your posts. :D
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Postby playinmud » Jun 26, 2008 7:51 am

I'm still relatively new to hostas, this is my 3rd year of enjoying them, so I don't even try to guess the subject of your writings. I enjoy the facts you come up with and I'm always pleasantly surprised with the way you segue to the hosta. Fun and very creative! :D

'Mount Everest', is beautiful, thanks for educating me on this hosta!

I bought over 150 2nd year tc's in 2005, one of them was 'Victory'. I knew they were babies and would get a tad bigger, but I had absolutely NO idea this hosta would get this immense (and its still only one eye)!! It literally towers over everything in the bed (it makes 'Abba Dabba Do' look small). Someone told me the flower scapes can reach up to 6 feet long (is this true?). No one warned me about giants. LOL.

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Postby renaldo75 » Jun 26, 2008 7:57 am

I don't even try anymore, Joan. :???: I've never gotten it right yet. :wink: :lol: And I hate to admit it, but I wouldn't have ever gotten this one cuz I was completely unaware until just now that there was an H. 'Mount Everest'... :oops:

But I sure do enjoy this series!! :D Thanks, Jim.

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Postby pauhaus » Jun 26, 2008 8:06 am

Joan, I've been doing the same, not successfully either! :lol:

Jim, these stories are really fun, and educational too, who knew? You should really think about putting a collection of these together...looking forward to reading more of your NPOTDs.
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Postby nanny_56 » Jun 26, 2008 8:10 am

My goodness where do you have/get all this information!! I love it!

Well despite my vastly limited knowledge of hostas, I did guess right on this one with the thought of 'well there must be a hosta named Mt. Everest'....
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Postby loisf » Jun 26, 2008 12:10 pm

You know, Jim, every morning when I come in to work and turn on my computer, I have a few "must check" spots... the NY Times front page, the radar weather map, the word game of the day on the Merriam-Webster site, and now, the latest NPOTD on the hosta forum. You've become a part of my daily routine. Thanks so much for the informative, entertaining posts. Lois
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Postby Ginger » Jun 26, 2008 12:32 pm

Another great one Jim!
If I am not mistaken doesn't the word Montana mean Mountain in Castillian? annyhooo.... The title peaked my interest first because I thought you would associate an entirely different plant with the hosta in this NPOTD :lol: :lol:

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Postby LucyGoose » Jun 26, 2008 4:17 pm

Believe it or not, I have been reading, just not posting and just the best!! I for sure never know where you going, because I never know where *I* am going either..... :lol: ....I have brought DH in here a few times to read....the history buff he is......Thank-you so much for doing these!!!!! :cool:
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Postby Kent » Jun 26, 2008 6:14 pm

At first I thought Jim was going to take us back to the sixties...I was getting so excited :o

Oh well it still was a good read and now I plan to call the tallest mountain in the world Chomolungma from here forward :wink:

Thanks Jim,

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Postby GrannyNanny » Jun 27, 2008 5:23 pm

I still maintain that you absolutely MUST collect these into a book -- half memoir, half hosta handbook! Phyllis
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Postby FreakyCola » Jun 29, 2008 1:49 pm

I'm with Kent. I was SURE this was going into a detailed description of some trips Jim took in the 60's. Oh well.
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