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Hillary’s Antarctica

Sir Edmund Hillary,as he eventually became, was a humble man born into a New Zealand family living in Auckland in 1919. He was a quiet, reserved child who discovered a love of climbing and snow on a school trip at the age of sixteen.

His father was beekeeper as was he and his brother, a pursuit which allowed them to enjoy the winter months in New Zealand. Hillary climbed Mt Ollivier (1,933 m/6,342 ft) in the Southern Alps at the age of twenty in 1939.

This love of the outdoors, striving to conquer the many challenges was to see this indomitable man go on to be the first man, along with Tenzting Norgay, to reach the summit of Mt Everest on May 29, 1953 at 11.30am. This, along with several other expeditions was to lead him into the New Zealand Antarctic Expedition of 1956/57 which is where this book Hillary’s Antarctic begins.

Ed Hillary’s role turned out to be another Antarctic story that created legends, set the world agog and almost caused an International incident. The New Zealand commitment to what was the British Trans-Antarctic expedition to be led by Vivien Fuchs, was to establish a base at the Ross Sea area to be known as Scott Base and to act as support teams for the British Expedition.

The Antarctic, lived up to its reputation of being dangerous, deadly and totally unpredictable over the months the British and New Zealand teams spent in the attempt to establish a safe crossing from Shackleton base, which Fuchs was to establish to the Ross Sea and Scott Base, but also the British were determined to also be the first to reach the South Geomagnetic Pole.

As history now tells, this was not to be as Ed Hillary and his team, driving their Ferguson tractors, and in what was to be a desperate attempt to save their own lives made it there before Fucks and his team by several weeks. Fuchs was still one-month way from the original estimated time to meet at the Pole, and Hillary, in the outlying supply depot did not have the fuels nor supplies to it that long.

Making sure there was to be extra fuel to be flown to the base known as D700, and that in an emergency fuel could supplied at the American base at the Pole, Hillary and his team, along with their tractors set out to complete what was to become the famous message from Hillary to Scott base, ‘We are heading hell-bent for the Pole, God willing and crevasses permitting.’

January 4, 1958 saw them reach the South Pole and to be recorded into history as the first expedition to travel overland to the South Pole since Captain Scott and his men in 1912.

This beautiful book created by Nigel Watson with stunning photography from Jane Ussher retells this amazing slice of history, bringing to life the medium of photography many of the items used by the men, the captivating and deadly majesty of the lands they traversed, and the eventual restoration of the original building stablished at Scott based back in 1957.

A wonderful Biographies section at the conclusion of this work reads like a who’s who and also pays tribute to the many men who made up the New Zealand Expedition, without whom Hillary and his men would not have been able to accomplish what they did; arrive at the South Pole on Ferguson Tractors!

For anyone with an interest in in the Antarctic, a place of awe-inspiring beauty, of great courage by early explorers and today a place of political debate, Hillary’s Antarctic pays tribute to a time when life was very different, but in so many ways, so very little changed!


Author Nigel Watson and Jane Ussher
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760633578
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released November 2018