Everyday Activist - Wheeler’s Everest (2019) (CBC Gem)

Posted on Sunday, December 27, 2020 at 05:00 PM

Wheeler's Everest (2019) (CBC Gem)

Movie Review by Everyday Activist X CalgaryMovies.com

Growing up in the Alberta Rockies, I knew the contributions of Arthur Wheeler and John Wheeler, notable geographer and award winning geologist respective to the geography and science of the Rocky Mountains. Somewhere along the line I skipped a generation. Sir Edward Oliver Wheeler, raised in the Rockies, spent a significant amount of time overseas in Europe and Asia following in the family tradition of scientific, mountain exploration. In the film, Wheeler's Everest ethnographer, Dr. Wade Davis builds on his 2011 book by taking Glaciologist, Jeff Wheeler, to trace some of his great grandfather’s footsteps starting in Europe at the Memorial for the Great War.

Oliver Wheeler went to the Royal Military College in Kingston. Then going to England for engineering and posted in India near Darjeeling after graduation. World War 1 called him back to Europe with the ill equipped Indian detachment. When the war was over he went back to India, surveying the landscape, periodically returning to Canada. Eventually, he retired in Canada.

Davis talks about the Great War shaping Oliver Wheeler's resolve and resilience in the Himalayas but honestly anyone who does anything in the Rockies knows how awful the conditions are. To get automatic access to international expeditions, in caving and diving at least, saying you've cut your teeth in Alberta/British Columbia will almost always guarantee you a spot on the team. The documentary did a wonderful job of articulating what an expedition would have looked like in the early 1900s. As surveyor and scientist on the 1921 Himalayas/Everest expedition, Wheeler would have had a difficult job, carrying glass plates and survey gear, on top of his climbing and survival gear. It's hard to imagine someone better suited to the task than someone familiar with mountainous terrain and cutting edge technology, allowing Wheeler to pave the way for future Everest expeditions.

Having members of Wheeler clan gave Davis' documentary additional depth. Because Oliver and Dolly eventually moved back to Canada, there was a bit of a disconnect in present Wheelers as to why Oliver and Dolly stayed away for so long. Once Jeff Wheeler and his mother saw the Indian landscape their appreciation grew for what their relatives experienced. Some of the Himalayan photos they had looked at many times now had context. Jeff's grandfather, John Wheeler, was born in India, but raised by his grandfather Arthur Wheeler in Canada. While that may seem odd, people need to remember that John was born in 1925. By 1935, Canada would have been the safest place for a child whose father could be called into service again at any time.

Wheeler’s Everest is available on CBC Gem. I didn't intentionally pick the movie from the line up, rather it started autoplaying while I was watching short documentaries. When I'm officially out of school I would like to read Davis' book to see what else he covered about the Wheelers in the biography. As Canadians we often downplay the contributions of people such as Oliver Wheeler, so I'm glad people like Davis remind us of his accomplishments. 

Calgary Showtimes: Wheeler's Everest >


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