He recalls that his passion for the extreme probably began when he first saw the snow, during a school holiday at New Zealand's Tongariro National Park, at the age of sixteen. He was a young teenager living in the countryside and he had never seen the magic of snow. Since that day, Sir Edmund Hillary has spent a great deal of his life amid snow and ice, blizzards and storms, high snowy peaks close to the sky and turbulent rivers flowing down to the sea.
In May 1953 he was the first to reach the summit of Mt Everest – with Tenzing Norgay. Thanks to that success another great adventure would keep him close to snow and ice for almost two years: the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE), a joint-venture between Great Britain and New Zealand that aimed to cross Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea. It was the dream dreamt by Shackleton forty years earlier.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Vivian Fuchs were co-leaders in this great expedition, which took place during the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58. Hillary established New Zealand’s Scott Base on Ross Island, then made a long and hazardous journey over the Ross Ice Shelf and across the Transantarctic Mountains, driving small Ferguson tractors, to trace the route for Fuchs and set fuel caches along the way. Thanks to Hillary’s determination, expertise and bravery (as well as with the help of the Americans), the performance of the Ross Sea Party was a great success. Hillary therefore decided to push on to the South Pole, where he arrived in January 1958, the first man to reach the Pole by terrestrial transportation.
Fifty years later, during the fourth International Polar year, great memories of the TAE expedition persist. Scott Base has celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, books are being published on the history of New Zealand and Antarctica, photographic exhibitions are being held, talks are being given. But one of the most fantastic records is kept between the walls in the office of Antarctica New Zealand, at the International Antarctic Centre, in Christchurch. It is the fabulous collection of pictures from the TAE.
"There are more then 1,300 photos and negatives," says Ursula Ryan, who has looked after the Pictorial Collection since 2005 as part of her role as Information Advisor with Antarctica New Zealand, the NZ Antarctic programme. "Of these 1,300 photos of the TAE, 170 are already digitized," she explains. Ryan takes me to the Archive, where temperature and humidity are kept under control. The TAE photos and negatives are archived one by one, each with its contact print. Most are 6x6 negatives. It looks like a treasure.
I asked Ursula to pick her favorite TAE photo. On the computer screen she shows the picture of the TAE hut, the first building of Scott Base, now a historic monument under the Antarctic Treaty. "I like this photo because we see the TAE hut, the New Zealand flag flying beside the hut and boxes of materials still lying around," says Ryan. "The landscape in the background is fantastic, with Mount Discovery peering just over the roof of the hut. I really like that mountain."
This photograph can be found in "Ice Age: Celebrating 50 years of New Zealand in Antarctica", published in June 2007 by Claire Duncan, in conjunction with Antarctica NZ with contributions by John Claydon, Bill Cranfield, David Harrowfield and Baden Norris. The booklet also contains a photo of the hut today.
A selection of the TAE photos can be seen here.
Also check out Antarctica New Zealand's website.
TAE hut photo: TAE632 Antarctica NZ Pictorial Collection
Contemporary photo : E. Barnes, Antarctica NZ Pictorial collection K250 06/07
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Friday, 02 November 2007 18:34
Looking back at the Trans-Antarctic ExpeditionWritten by Lucia Simion
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