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Ambassador Polly


I’m Polly, I have somehow ended up in Room 6 at Katikati Primary School. It was a surprise for both myself and the class. I didn’t know my name so the children gave me one. After much discussion they decided I came from the ‘Elf Pole’ but together we discovered that I am an Emperor Penguin and I came from Antarctica.

The teachers and children have taken care of me while I search for my home. I have even been for sleepovers! AND I got to ride on top of an aeroplane, had a bath and a Hippo read a story to me! So far we have learnt that….

I am an Emperor Penguin. I come from Antarctica. I eat fish and krill. I carry my eggs and babies on my feet so they don’t freeze on the ice and I must be a lot older than a baby as they are grey and fluffy, but I am a beautiful orange, yellow, white, grey and black.

Somehow the teachers have talked to the positively wonderful people at LEARNZ, they are soooo important that THEY SAID THEY COULD GET ME HOME!!! Word has got around and even more people wanted to help me. So now I am about to leave on a very special tractor to begin my journey home. The driver is a bit worried I might get burnt on the tractor so I might have to hide sometimes from the sun. Well, I must go, I need to pack my fish treats to get ready for travels. We will keep you in touch with my progress.

May the fish be with you,


Monday 29 August

What an adventure!

Dear friends,

Last week I was at Piha beach (a long way from my home in Antarctica, I know!). I was finding it a little bit warm, and was just dreaming of life in cooler waters when I met some people who could help me. 

They are driving tractors down to Mt Cook – that’s over 2000km south of Piha. I thought the cold glacial waters in the Southern Alps sounded rather nice, so I decided to join them. 

Al, Brian and Lydia showed me their tractors. They’re the same ones that Sir Edmund Hillary and his team drove to the South Pole almost 60 years ago. The tractors move very slowly, about 20km per hour, so it’ll take us a month to get all the way to Mt Cook. I’m looking forward to the trip, and I’m glad these people are going to help me get closer to my home. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Best wishes from the road,


Monday 5 September

Hello from the snow!

Dear friends,

I’m very excited to be writing to you from a place that feels like home. No, I haven’t made it to Antarctica yet! The Expedition South team made a detour to drive up Mt Ruapehu, and it’s covered in snow. Wahoo!

The mountain is high in altitude, which means it gets very cold up here. In winter, it snows, and lots of people come here to go skiing. 

When he was a schoolboy, Ed Hillary came here on a school ski trip. When he hopped off the train at National Park station, it was the first time he had ever seen snow. He was enchanted by the mountains, and this is where his passion for cold snowy places really began. It’s pretty special to visit the exact same spot about seven decades later – it’s still just as enchanting to myself and the Expedition South team as it must have been to Ed. 

Though I’m sad to leave this place, we have to continue south towards my real home in Antarctica. I’m sure I’ll see snow again when we reach the South Island. 

Bye for now, looking forward to updating you soon!



Friday 16 September

Hi friends,

I’ve made it to the South Island!

I’ve been travelling with the Expedition South team for more than three weeks now, and I’ve been having a great time. We’ve stopped off at lots of BBQs, events, schools and even retirement homes. We made the journey across Cook Strait last week, and we were very lucky to get across before the ferries were cancelled for two days during a storm. 

That storm caught up with us when we were driving between Picton and Blenheim, and the drivers got very cold, with sleet and snow falling on them. I have a lot of blubber and warm feathers on my body, so I thought the snow was very comfortable actually! 

We drove through the Molesworth Station in the South Island high country, and had some challenges driving the tractors in the snow. Even though these tractors have been to the South Pole, they still struggle to gain traction when it’s slippery. Good thing the farmer was there to give us a hand by ploughing the road ahead of us. He used an enormous tractor that even made our big tractor look small, and he calls it Tinkerbell!

I’ve visited about 10 schools now, and have met all sorts of interesting people. I’m looking forward to arriving at Mount Cook and seeing the high mountains of the Southern Alps.

Until next time!


Friday 23 September

I made it to Mt Cook!

Hi friends,

We made it to Aoraki/Mount Cook! The tractors had a bit of trouble along the way, and Al and the team were worried that they wouldn’t go the distance. One time, there were sparks coming from the distributor, and another time, we broke a gasket. One other time we accidentally ran out of petrol…oops. Luckily we had Brian the mechanic on board, and he kept the engines running, and fixed them whenever something went wrong (which was pretty often!). Al likes to joke that Sir Ed had it easy in Antarctica because he was driving brand new tractors, while we have to deal with old broken ones – I think that’s the only thing that Sir Ed had easier than our team though, as he had to navigate through crevasses and blizzards, and he didn’t have nice people giving him snacks whenever he pulled over!

Aoraki is a beautiful mountain, as are the rest of the mountains in kā tiritiri o te moana, the Southern Alps. From the finish line in Mount Cook Village, I can see the Hillary Ridge on Aoraki, which Sir Ed climbed back in 1948 – it really is a fitting place to finish an expedition that was dedicated to the most famous kiwi mountaineer ever.

Though Expedition South has got me this far towards my home, I still have a long way to go before I reach Antarctica. Lucky for me, Al and Lizzie from the Antarctic Heritage Trust are heading down to the ice this summer, and they might have room for a stowaway on the plane to Scott Base. It would really be great to see my homeland again.

Until next time,


Tuesday 8 November

Kia ora,

It was so good to catch up with the other ambassadors who flew down to Antarctica yesterday. I came down to Antarctica with Al from the Antarctic Heritage Trust a few weeks ago and I have been hanging out with him since the Expedition South Tractor journey. 

It is great to be back home in Antarctica but I haven’t seen any other penguins yet so hoping I will soon. I can’t wait to head out on to the sea ice.

Talk soon,


Wednesday 9 November

Tēnā koutou,

Ever since my journey with Expedition South I have been looking forward to seeing Hillary’s Hut. Today we found out a lot more about how the hut is being restored. Sadly, we couldn’t go inside because asbestos is being removed and it was too dangerous. 

I watched as people worked on the roof and wanted to help but couldn’t climb up there. Penguins are better swimmers than climbers! Hillary’s Hut is going to be painted yellow and orange so it will look the same as it did when it was built back in 1957.

Tomorrow we are going to explore Scott’s Discovery Hut.

Bye for now,


Thursday 10 November

Kia ora,

Today we went exploring and I saw Weddell seals but no penguins. We went to Discovery Hut, which was built by the famous polar explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, during his first expedition. I was surprised by how dark it was inside the hut. I guess big windows would make it colder. 

It was neat to see all the preserved items in the hut. I even found some old tins of cocoa. I bet the old explorers enjoyed having cups of hot cocoa.

Tomorrow we are heading out across the sea ice to Cape Evans. I am hopeful that I find some of my cousins – flippers crossed.

Chat tomorrow,


Friday 11 November

Kia ora,

We had an incredible day out at Cape Evans today. We travelled out across the sea ice following a flagged route on the Hagglund. It was warm and cosy in the Hagglund and we could enjoy a great view across McMurdo Sound and over to Mount Erebus, an active volcano on Ross Island.

I saw a couple of Adelie penguins across the ice but they didn’t stop to say hello. At Cape Evans we explored Scott’s Hut. This hut was built in 1910 and was a base for science and exploring. Twenty-five people lived here and it was quite sad thinking about how Scott and four others never returned from their trip to the South Pole.

Tomorrow we are going on an even bigger adventure out to Cape Royds. I wonder if I’ll see some emperor friends?

Talk soon,


Monday 14 November

Kia ora,

We headed out to Cape Royds today on the Hagglund. I kept looking for other emperor penguins but only saw Adelie penguins. These penguins tend to keep to themselves and seem to not want to make friends with emperors. Emperors live at Cape Crozier and that is a long way from here so I may not see any on this trip. Maybe I will have to come back next year. I know I would miss my classmates too much if I stayed here.

It was cool looking around Shackleton’s Hut and I learnt that Shackleton was the first to discover the Beardmore Glacier and a safe way on to the Polar Plateau.

Tomorrow we are going out to a modern sea ice science camp.

See you then,


Tuesday 15 November

Kia ora,

Our last day of the Antarctica field trip has come around quickly and I am a bit sad about having to leave amazing Antarctica. I met lots of Adelie penguins but no emperors. Shelley says I can come back next year and try to find some emperor friends.

We had an awesome helicopter ride out to a science field camp set up on the sea ice. This camp wasn’t what I expected – it had heated containers with power and they even had an oven with which to cook rather than using a gas burner.

It was cool seeing all the different instruments they use to study the sea ice and water beneath. 

I need to go and catch my plane so I will see you all soon.


Meet Polly the ambassador for Katikati School. Image: Katikati School.

This is my ride for the next month - a red Ferguson tractor. Image: Lydia McLean.

I like to sit up front between the lights so that I can see the view as we drive south. Image: Lydia McLean.

I enjoyed the ride up to Mount Ruapehu on the tractor. Image: Lydia McLean.

It felt good to play in the snow on Mount Ruapehu, it was almost like being back home. Image: Lydia McLean.

Polly crosses Cook Strait on the Interislander Ferry. Image: Lydia McLean.

Snow fell as we headed south making travel a bit more like what Hillary would have faced on his polar journey. Image: Lydia McLean.

We even had to cross rivers as we headed inland. Image: Lydia McLean.

Our not so little tractor needed a helping hand from a giant snow ploughing tractor on the Molesworth Road. Image: Lydia McLean.

It was great to arrive in Aoraki Mount Cook. I met some friendly local children who wanted to hear all about my adventures. Image: Lydia McLean.

Brian the brilliant mechanic keeps our tractors going. Image: Lydia McLean.

It was great to arrive in Aoraki Mount Cook. I met some friendly local children who wanted to hear all about my adventures. Image: Lydia McLean.

It is great to be back home in Antarctica. Image: LEARNZ.

I enjoyed looking around Hillary's Hut, but I couldn't go inside because asbestos was being removed and it is really bad for you if you breathe in asbestos fibres. Image: LEARNZ.

Polly explores Scott's Discovery Hut, built in 1902. Image: LEARNZ.

Polly explores Cape Evans, north of Scott Base. Image: LEARNZ.

Polly looks out towards the Adelie penguin colony at Cape Royds. Image: LEARNZ.

Polly looks around Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds. Image: LEARNZ.

Polly visits a science camp out on the sea ice. Image: LEARNZ.

Polly looks into the hole that has been drilled through the sea ice. Image: LEARNZ.