Call for New Zealanders to help save Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica

Expedition SouthThe Antarctic Heritage Trust is on a major and somewhat unusual journey, Expedition South, to help raise $1 million dollars to save Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica and maintain it for the next 25 years.

The tractors will be in Hanmer Springs on the evening of Saturday 10 September , and at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa on Sunday 11 September from 9 – 10am and crossing through the Hawarden area mid afternoon, then into Lees Valley.

Expedition South is a 2012-kilometre journey involving three Massey Ferguson tractors. It left Piha Beach on Tuesday, 23 August 2016, all going well, the expedition will finish at Aoraki Mount Cook on 20 September.

The Trust’s Executive Director Nigel Watson says the journey pays tribute to Sir Ed’s famous ‘dash to the Pole’ and the Trust is hoping that kiwis will support it.

“It’s a remarkable undertaking and we are hoping that it will inspire New Zealanders to chip into our fund to save Sir Ed’s hut in Antarctica. The easiest way to donate is online via our givealittle page or expeditionsouth.nz.”

Hillary's Hut, also known as Hut A or the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut, was the first building constructed at Scott Base and is where Sir Ed’s team began their historic Ferguson tractor expedition to the South Pole in 1957.

Sir Ed’s son Peter Hillary, who himself has skied from Scott Base to the South Pole, says Antarctica and the hut were very important to his father.

“Dad often talked about his time in Antarctica and the trip to the South Pole ... he saw it as one of his major achievements, saying it was an extreme challenge after Everest. He spent a lot of time in that hut – it was where his office was and where his bunkbed was. I know he’d want it saved.”

Nearly 60 years on, Hillary’s Hut has a leaking roof, asbestos that needs removing, melt-pools forming under the floorboards and the memorabilia within it is showing signs of damage and corrosion.

Antarctic Heritage Trust Executive Director Nigel Watson says the hut and its artefacts can be saved.

“We have put together a comprehensive Conservation Plan that details how the hut and artefacts can be conserved and maintained for 25 years. We just need to raise the funds to do so and are hoping New Zealanders can help us save this valuable slice of Kiwi history,” says Nigel.

Nigel Watson says Sir Ed’s decision to go to the South Pole was a bold move.

“No-one had been overland since Captain Scott in 1912. Sir Ed was on the Ice supporting the Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and his decision to push on to the Pole with three Ferguson tractors was controversial. But of course they made it – the first trip overland to the South Pole by motor vehicle.”

Expedition South involves three tractors - two of the tractors are the same Ferguson TE-20 models that Sir Ed and his team had, the other is a new Massey Ferguson MF5600.

Expedition South will travel the same distance that Sir Ed and his team travelled from Scott Base to the South Pole - 2012 kilometres.

Nigel Watson says it is a hard slog.

“While our team is not on the Ice and has far more comforts than Sir Ed and his team had, it’s still going to take them nearly four weeks and they’re likely to face all kinds of weather. Already they have faced driving rain!”

Along the way, Expedition South is collecting donations – both online via givealittle or expeditionsouth.nz will be stopping at various schools, Hillary hotspots and events to collect donations from the public.

“We are calling on Kiwis to give a fiver. The $5 note has Sir Ed’s face on it so we can’t think of a better use for it than saving his Antarctic legacy.”

Peter Hillary hopes New Zealanders will dig in and help save the hut.

“Dad was quoted as saying that he was “hell bent on taking the South Pole – God willing and crevasse permitting”. Now I’m hoping New Zealand will be hell bent on saving his hut. The Antarctic Heritage Trust has come up with a wonderful plan - now we just need to find the funds.”

Nigel Watson says the Trust has already received some significant donations and pledges towards the project.

He says the Trust plans to be able to undertake the work this summer so it’s finished in time for the 60th anniversary of Scott Base.

“To do that, we need New Zealanders onboard with Expedition South. Please get behind this intrepid effort and save a slice of our history. You can find out about Expedition South or donate at givealittle or expeditionsouth.nz and if you happen to see us on the road then please toot, wave and give a fiver to the driver!”