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LINZ unearths piece of Antarctic history

LINZ unearths piece of Antarctic history


Sir Wally Herbert sketching the Mill and Beardmore Glaciers in one of the historic field books held by LINZ. Photo credit: Peter Otway

A cache of historic items uncovered by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is providing an insight into the exploration and research of Antarctica, and details of Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1958 journey to the South Pole.

The items include a field book used by Sir Wally Herbert – once described as ‘the greatest polar explorer of our time’ – and records from Sir Edmund Hillary’s expedition.

“Surveyors from what is now LINZ were heavily involved in the New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme, including Herbert’s 1961-62 expedition to map an area last explored by Scott and Amundsen,” said LINZ Chief Geodesist Graeme Blick.

“The field book shows Herbert’s sketches of the area – confirmed by photographs of him working on them – which contributed to the first maps of the Queen Maud Range.”

“The books from Hillary’s Antarctic expedition include details such as the sun observations used to measure progress, travel distances, altitude recordings, as well as a list of supplies left in depots and even the draft of a message arranging a pick-up at the end.”

LINZ continues to be involved in Antarctic research, surveying and geographic naming and recently signed a Record of Understanding with Antarctica New Zealand. Activities the organisations will collaborate on include topographic mapping in the Ross Dependency; contributing to an international programme to establish gravity measurements in Antarctica; and hydrographic charting in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.


Dubbed “the greatest polar explorer of our time” by Ranulph Feinnes, Sir Wally Herbert’s polar career spanned more than 50 years. In 1968, he led the first surface crossing of the Arctic, and would later attempt to circumnavigate Greenland by dogsled and traditional boat. Honours included the Polar Medal and Bar, the Founders’ Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Medal of the Explorers Club. Herbert was also an accomplished writer and artist, publishing several books on polar exploration.

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