CU-Boulder Geology Professor Helped IMAX Crew Get Everest Story

March 6, 1998

The IMAX film crew that documented life and death on Mount Everest relied on the expertise of CU-Boulder geology Professor Roger Bilhan over an 18-month period to help them get the science right.

“Everest,” which premieres March 13 at the IMAX Theater in the Denver Museum of Natural History, was filmed by a crew led by David Breashears of Boulder.

Bilham said the scientific history of the Himalaya forms a fundamental component of the IMAX script. “Prior to the May 1996 disaster, which claimed eight lives, the script was 20 percent science and 80 percent spectacular scenery. The disasters on the mountain highlighted the dangers of high altitude existence, one of the movie’s themes, but it did reduce some of the more geological aspects of the movie,” he said.

“I had to leave just days before the disasters occurred,” Bilham recalled. “I rushed back to CU to teach and in the weeks following the rescue, we were pumping jetstream information to base camp from Boulder. The IMAX crew did not want to encounter another sudden storm like the one that had caused the disasters just two weeks earlier,” he said.

Bilham ‘s research actually focuses on what's underneath the Himalaya - a vast detachment fault - and the overdue earthquakes projected to measure 8 or more on the Richter Scale that have occurred and will reoccur on the fault. The loss of life that could come at the hand of these quakes keeps Bilham motivated to do further study.

Bilham also has turned into an Everest referee when it comes to measuring the heights of the mountain. He places it at 29,028 or 29,029 feet, though a new Italian measurement puts it five or six feet lower.

Bilham is available to talk to reporters about the 18 months he worked on the IMAX project, Everest and the Himalayas and earthquakes. Contact him at 303-492-6189 or call Laurie Van Horn, CU-Boulder Public Relations, at 492-2224.

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