Mount Everest, the crown gem of Nepal’s Himalayan crown, is without a doubt the world’s most famous peak. It’s one of those things you learn as a kid like that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon or that blue whales are the world’s largest mammals.
Other summits, you may be surprised to learn, might theoretically be called Earth’s tallest; it all depends on how you measure them.
What is the world’s tallest mountain, according to many criteria such as altitude, height from base to top, and distance from Earth’s centre?
Mount Everest, deep in the Himalayas’ Mahlangu Hill subrange, is unquestionably the most famous — and seductive — of all the world’s mountains.
Everest, also known as Chomolungma, means “Goddess Mother of the World” in Tibetan, was first climbed on May 29, 1953, by Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa, and Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, and has since been ascended by over 4,000 people. According to The Guardian, the mountain has claimed the lives of over 300 people since records began in 1922.
Mount Everest has been measured several times over the years, but the most recent estimate, released in November 2021, puts it at 29,031.69 feet (8,848.86 meters) above sea level, or over 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometres) tall. It’s a remarkable height, but it raises the question of why “above sea level” is used to determine the world’s tallest peak.
“A continuous baseline is required for measurement comparability,” Martin Price, a professor and founding head of the Center for Mountain Studies at Scotland’s University of Highlands and Islands, told noted.
Then we have an opponent from Ecuador. The summit of Chimborazo is 20,564 feet above sea level. However, due to the Earth’s bulge, the summit of Chimborazo is over 6,800 feet farther from the centre of the Earth than Everest’s peak. That makes Chimborazo the closest point on Earth to the stars, which is further than Mount Everest’s reach.
The Sea’s Argument
Price later said to Live Science, “Historically, and even now, elevation is frequently given as height above mean sea level. This must, however, be done in relation to a standard mean sea level, which must be determined. Varied sections of the world have different sea levels, which are changing as a result of climate change.”
As a result, he explained, “elevation is now calculated in regard to the Earth’s geometrically defined geoid.” The geoid is “a model of global mean sea level that is used to calculate accurate surface elevations,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to GIM International, this average is used to determine the height of mountains, a technique that sometimes necessitates an aeroplane flying “back and forth over a mountain in a series of parallel lines to calculate how much gravity pushes down on its apex.” These data, along with GPS readings, result in highly precise elevation readings.
So, all mountains are measured from sea level, mostly for ease and consistency, but what if they were measured from base to peak? Would Everest still be the most popular song?
The answer is an emphatic “no.” Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano in Hawaii, would be the recipient of this honour. Although its peak is 13,802 feet (4,205 m) above sea level — which is less than half the height of Everest, according to National Geographic — the remainder of Mauna Kea lies submerged below sea level.
According to the United States Geological Survey, Mauna Kea is 33,497 feet (10,211 m) tall from base to peak, putting its head and shoulders above Mount Everest.
Should we then consider Mauna Kea to be the world’s tallest mountain?
“It all depends on your point of view,” Price stated. “There would be no dispute if our world did not have oceans! There are parallels to be drawn with the highest mountains on other bodies in our solar system that do not have seas.”
Dwarfs of Earth
Whatever mountain you choose, it will be dwarfed in comparison to Mars’ Olympus Mons, the solar system’s largest known volcano.
According to NASA, it stands at a height of around 16 miles (25 kilometres), nearly three times the height of Everest, and has a diameter of 374 miles (601.9 kilometres), roughly the same as the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles (383.1 miles/616.5 kilometres).
On the asteroid Vesta, which is part of the asteroid belt 100 million miles from Earth, there is also an impact crater named Rheasilvia. According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the peak at the heart of this crater might be somewhere between 12 and 15.5 miles (20 and 25 kilometres) tall, making it the solar system’s tallest mountain.
Image Sources: Google Images
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This post is tagged under: Mount Everest, Nepal’s Himalayan crown, Neil Armstrong, Himalayas’ Mahlangu Hill, Chomolungma, Tenzing Norgay, Nepalese Sherpa, Edmund Hillary, Martin Price, the world’s tallest peak, Scotland’s University of Highlands and Islands, Ecuador, Chimborazo, Earth’s geometrically defined geoid, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, GIM International, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, an inactive volcano, United States Geological Survey, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mars’ Olympus Mons, asteroid Vesta, Rheasilvia