Moorcroft Mystery

Did William Moorcroft spend 12 years in Tibet from 1826 to 1838?  And if so, what happened to the maps and diaries he would have made while he was there?

Moorcroft’s biographer, Prof. Garry Alder (Beyond Bokhara–the life of William Moorcroft–Asian Explorer and Pioneer Veterinary Surgeon 1767-1825), and most historians, report that Moorcroft died of a fever at Andkhoi, Afghanistan in August 1825.  But two French priests, Regis-Evariste Huc and Joseph Gabet (Travels in Tartary Thibet and China 1844-1846), who arrived in Lhasa in 1846 after travelling across China, reported that Moorcroft spent 12 years in Lhasa.  They made this claim on the basis of reports in the Tibetan capital and their discussions with Moorcroft’s personal servant Nisan.  Both stories cannot be true, and thus the Moorcroft Mystery!

Dan Jantzen, in his essay “The Moorcroft Mystery–did William Moorcroft really spend twelve years in Lhasa from 1826 to 1838” argues it is possible Moorcroft faked his own death at Andkhoi in order that he might ‘disappear’ and proceed in disguise, first to Yarkand and eventually to Lhasa.  The visit to Lhasa is plausible, but there is no evidence in modern times to establish Huc and Gabet’s claim.  Preliminary searches for evidence in Lhasa, Beijing and even Taipei have so far not yielded useful information.  Anyone with interest to pursue this question in Tibetan and Chinese historical sources is asked to contact the