Witness History

by BBC World Service
History as told by the people who were there.

The first Indian woman to conquer Everest

As a child, Bachendri Pal never dreamt of conquering mountains but a chance meeting with a climber changed all that. She applied for a mountaineering course and was chosen to be part of India’s first mixed-gender team to climb Mount Everest. On the journey, she faced icy winds, freezing temperatures and an avalanche that destroyed the camp. But finally, on 23 May 1984, Bachendri became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Everest. It was an achievement that …

Tragedy on Everest

Michael Groom is one of the survivors of a tragic climbing expedition to Mount Everest in Nepal. In 2010, Jonny Hogg spoke to Michael Groom about the moments that went badly wrong when a storm struck the world's highest mountain on 10 May 1996. (Photo: Michael Groom on Everest in 1993. Credit: Guy Cotter)

Mallory’s body discovered on Everest

In 1999 the body of the legendary British mountaineer, George Mallory, was found on Mount Everest. Mallory disappeared on the mountain in 1924 together with his fellow climber Andrew Irvine. In 2016, Farhana Haider spoke to Jochen Hemmleb, one of the original members of the team that discovered George Mallory's remains. (Photo: George Mallory in 1909. Credit: AFP via Getty Images)

Tenzing Norgay conquers Everest

Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had tried to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, six times before his successful climb with Edmund Hillary in 1953. His son, Jamling Norgay, spoke to Louise Clarke about the spiritual importance of the mountain for his father, and how Tenzing Norgay saved Hillary’s life when he fell down a crevasse on the mountain. (Photo: Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. Credit: BBC)

Edmund Hillary conquers Everest

On 29 May 1953 Edmund Hillary, climbing with sherpa Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to reach the summit of Everest. The two men instantly became famous all over the world. Edmund Hillary’s son, Peter Hillary, tells Louise Clarke about his father's heroic climb. (Photo: Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. Credit: BBC)

The deadliest glacial avalanche in the world

On 31 May 1970, the Huascarán avalanche, caused by the Ancash earthquake, destroyed the town of Yungay, in Peru. Only 400 people, out of a population of 18,000, survived. A clown, named Cucharita, saved approximately 300 children, who were at a circus performance, by leading them to higher ground. Rachel Naylor speaks to his son, Christian Peña. (Photo: Statue of Christ at the cemetery overlooking Yungay, after the avalanche. Credit: Science Photo Library)

Trying to unite Africa

On 25 May 1963, leaders of 32 newly-independent African nations came together for the first time in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. At stake was the dream of a united Africa. In 2013, Alex Last spoke to Dr Bereket Habte Selassie who took part in that first gathering. (Photo: Haile Selassie, centre, and Ghana's first President Kwame Nkrumah, left, during the formation of the Organisation of African Unity. Credit: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Chasing the world’s biggest tornado

On 31 May 2013, a huge tornado hit an area close to El Reno in the US state of Oklahoma. It was the widest tornado ever recorded and produced extreme winds of more than 400 kilometres an hour. Eight people were killed, including three storm chasers. One of the people tracking the storm was Emily Sutton, a meteorologist with KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City. She’s a member of the station’s storm chasing team and was caught in the tornado. She tells …

Fikret Alić

In August 1992, a shocking photograph of a starving, emaciated man behind a barbed wire fence of a Bosnian concentration camp stunned the world. The picture, taken from an ITN report was of a Bosniak Muslim called Fikret Alić. Reporter Ed Vulliamy was there when the photograph was taken. In this programme Ed reunites with Fikret and hears how the picture, which was published around the world, eventually helped Fikret flee to safety. This programme contains descriptions of sexual violence. …

Pippi Longstocking

In Stockholm in 1941, Astrid Lindgren made up a story for her seven-year-old daughter, Karin, about a young girl who lived alone and had super-human strength. Karin named her Pippi Långstrump, or Pippi Longstocking in English. Four years later, Astrid submitted her story into a competition and it won. Her book, Pippi Långstrump, was published and became an overnight success. It’s now been translated into more than 70 languages, as well as being made into more than 40 TV series …