It was during 1954, with the increasing interest in Mount Everest, that word trickled down through contacts, either in the field of journalism or through returned servicemen, that there was someone living in the English Midlands who had been through an incredible adventure, including sightings of abominable snowmen.
If it was Downing's story that appeared on 7 January 1954, then it would have been during 1953, not 1954, that 'word trickled down'. That, however, gets us no nearer to determining what Rawicz’s motives were in seeking or accepting publicity for his claimed sighting of yetis.
The preliminary evidence suggests that a bear, with the strong possibility of an ancient polar bear as a maternal ancestor, accounts at least in part, and perhaps entirely, for the ‘yeti’.
The thought also struck me last year when reading the brilliant biography of the physiologist, Griffith Pugh, Everest. The First Ascent, by his daughter Harriet Tuckey, that some sightings of humanoid animals by travellers in the Himalayas may have been not just humanoid but human. Tuckey wrote that in January 1961, a strange man walked into base camp at Mingbo (15000 ft, 4600 m). He was small, slight, barefoot and wearing only a turban, short jacket, cotton trousers and a shirt. He spent nights sheltered under a rock at temperatures below -10°C. He also had the curious habit of eating glass; microscope slides and pipettes preferred. It turned out that Man Badhur was a carpenter, and had come to the Mingbo Valley on a pilgrimage, the result of a religious revelation. Pugh who was fascinated by this pilgrim’s appearance made many physiological observations (published in 1963) to determine how Man Badhur survived the cold and, moreover, avoided frostbite.
Away from myths and legends, the scientific interest now lies in sorting out just what the bears of the Himalayas are and where they came from.