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Re-Measure Cuts World’s Highest Mountain, Say Scientists

April 20, 1993

GENEVA (AP) _ The mountaineers who have toiled to the top of Mount Everest may have exaggerated their feat - the mountain is nearly seven feet shorter than previously believed, a team of scientists said Tuesday.

After taking delicate measurements last September and making laborious calculations since then, the scientists concluded that the world’s highest mountain tops out at 29,022 feet, 7 inches - about 6 feet, 8 inches lower than it looked the last time it was measured.

That was in 1974, by a team of Chinese scientists. Since then, technology has advanced markedly.

The project involved teams setting up equipment on the Chinese and Nepalese sides of the mountain. They aimed laser beams at prisms that had been placed on the peak and at reference points on the ground.

The distances between the reference points was determined by satellite sightings and the prisms reflected the light at a known angle, giving the scientists enough information for triangulation.

The data were adjusted to take into account distortions caused by frigid temperatures and the differences in air density and gravitational pull between the summit and the instruments on the ground, said team member Giorgio Poretti of the University of Trieste.

Making the announcement of the new measurement was Ardito Desio, emeritus professor at the University of Milan, who supervised the calculations.

The mountaineering pioneer, who turned 96 two days earlier, spoke from Milan in a phone conversation at a news conference organized by Baume and Mercier, a Geneva-based watch company that provided precision equipment and sponsored the expedition.

The new measurement of the mountain was subject to an error of plus or minus 15.4 inches, Desio added.

The new measurement doesn’t shake Mount Everest from the No. 1 spot. The second highest peak, K2 in Kashmir, is 28,250 feet.

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