Here is some wonderful advice about how to beat eggs by hand. I found it on Yahoo answers, too! Alas, Yahoo answers pages get deleted rapidly so I am re-posting it here for my own convenience.
The best utensils for beating by hand is in a copper bowl with a whisk. If you do not have a copper bowl** (and most people don’t), use glass or a ceramic one. Your bowl shoud be fairly deep and both the bowl and the whisk should be completely dry. This is very important. Your egg whites should be at room temperature as they will expand better when warm. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites before whipping, then, about 1/4 of the way through the beating process add a pinch of cream of tarter or one to two drops of lemon juiceor vinegar. This will stabilize the egg whites and helps keep the bubbles from bursting when you stop beating.
** If you do have a copper bowl, scour it with vinegar, dry thoroughly and omit the salt.