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Expedition South

The International Geophysical Year
The Science of Conservation

Expedition South is a tractor journey to celebrate Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1958 tractor expedition to the South Pole and raise funds to restore the Trans Antarctic Expedition Hut.

In August 2016 you can follow the Antarctic Heritage Trust on their Expedition South. They will:

  • drive vintage tractors 
  • cover 2,012 kilometres
  • begin in Tuakau, near Auckland
  • finish at Aoraki Mt Cook village.

The trust is going to travel on the same model of tractor and the same distance that Sir Edmund Hillary drove on his ‘Dash to the Pole’ from Scott Base to the South Pole. This journey took place in 1958 and was part of the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition (TAE). 

Sir Edmund Hillary

Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay were the first people to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Many people would have happily retired from adventure after such an achievement, but not Hillary. He went on to complete many more expeditions to the Himalaya, Antarctica, India and the Arctic. He also set up the Himalayan Trust to help build schools and hospitals in Nepal.

Dash to the Pole

Sir Edmund Hillary was a member of the Trans Antarctic Expedition which aimed to complete the first overland crossing of the Antarctic Continent. Hillary led the New Zealand section of this expedition. On 4 January 1958, Hillary’s team were the first to reach the Pole overland since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912, and the first ever to do so using motor vehicles.

Massey Ferguson Tractors

Hillary's TAE team used three Ferguson TE-20 tractors. The tractors were fitted with an extra wheel on each side and full caterpillar tracks which could be removed in light conditions. A canvas cabin was added for wind-proofing.

2016 New Zealand Expedition 

The Antarctic Heritage Trust will celebrate Hillary’s first tractor journey to the South Pole by travelling the same distance from Tuakau, where Ed Hillary went to school, to Aoraki Mount Cook. This expedition aims to inspire a new generation of adventurers and raise money to restore Hillary’s original hut at Scott Base.

Hillary’s Hut

The TAE hut is often called Hillary’s hut and was part of the original Scott Base. Scott Base was established with the support of the New Zealand Government to plan and oversee New Zealand’s involvement in the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and the International Geophysical Year (IGY). The base was built during the summer of 1956–57. The TAE hut was one of six buildings and housed:

  • a mess room
  • a galley
  • a radio room
  • Hillary’s office.

A party of 23 people, under the leadership of Sir Edmund Hillary and including five scientists wintered over in the TAE Hut in 1957, to complete preparations for the expediton. 

The TAE hut is an important part of history and marks the beginning of New Zealand’s scientific work in Antarctica.

Ready for a quiz?

Expedition South quiz


Audio Māori keywords: 

What challenges do you think Hillary and the TAE expedition team faced on their journey across Antarctica?

Al Fastier will lead the Expedition South Antarctic Heritage Trust tractor journey using the same model tractor as Ed Hillary used on the TAE expedition. Image: Antarctic Heritage Trust. 

Expedition South will travel from Tuakau near Auckland to Aoraki Mount Cook by tractor. This is a similar distance to what Hillary travelled during the TAE expedition to the Pole. Image: Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Hillary's team modified Massey Ferguson Tractors so they could travel to the Pole. What modifications have been made? Image: Canterbury Museum.

The International Geophysical Year
The Science of Conservation