The ability to communicate on the mountain and with the outside world has changed enormously since Joe Tasker’s expeditions.
In the days of Joe’s expeditions, communications were totally reliant on feet! Some base camps were days away from telegram and telephone communication and mail runners were usually employed as part of the support team to continuously ferry mail and information to and from Base Camp.
What is clear is that letters from home carried significant importance, even delaying departures from Base Camps awaiting the mail runner: “disconsolate that we would have to leave for the mountain next day without the satisfaction afforded by letters from home”. “The seclusion of expedition life endows the receipt of letters with an importance beyond measure” (quotes from Joe Tasker in Savage Arena).
The Collection contains many letters between Joe and his Mother from all of his expeditions. Most poignant is the last letter his Mother wrote to him dated 6 days after he had disappeared on the North East Ridge of Everest on 17th May 1982. Due to the time it had taken to undertake searches and then walk out to a town with communications links, it was over two weeks later before Joe’s family were informed.
Joe’s letters often refer to the time it had taken for a letter to travel, with 2 – 6 weeks being common. Nowadays, Base Camps usually have satellite links with real time reporting to the outside world and families able to chat online. This, of course, can carry its own set of pressures.