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Book launch to celebrate Sir Edmund’s tractor reconstruction

Book launch to celebrate Sir Edmund’s tractor reconstruction

A book that tells the story of Sir Edmund Hillary’s epic journey to the South Pole through the reconstruction of a tractor is to be launched at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre next week.

The book, aptly named ‘Something Different – The Hillary Tractor Restoration’, has been written by John Callesen who was fascinated by the story of how tractors replaced huskies during the historic expedition.

The Massey Ferguson tractor Mr Callesen rebuilt is an exact replica of one of the legendary Ferguson TEA tractors which transported Sir Edmund and his team on their epic journey to the South Pole in 1958.

He spent two years building the tractor and always planned to write a story about Hillary’s journey for visitors who would view it at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

‘Something Different’ reveals in detail, with words and images, how in 1958 three tractors were donated to Sir Edmund Hillary by Massey Ferguson for the purpose of lugging 600 tons of stores from the ship ‘Endeavour’ to build New Zealand's now permanent base in Antarctica, Scott Base.

“Before making their trip south, Sir Edmund Hillary had used one of the Ferguson tractors for snow clearing at The Hermitage Hotel. Then after realising the efficiency of the tractors at Scott Base he replaced most of the huskies (which had been trained at Aoraki Mount Cook) to be used in the trip to the Pole with the tractors because the tractors could do the work that the dog teams were going to do and the huskies could then better be used for survey work,” said Mr Callesen.

“I had the list of items that were aboard that ship. I knew they had an arc welder, gas cutting and a sewing machine. On that basis I reconstructed the tractor using the limited tools they had, so this sets this tractor apart from the originals that have been restored using modern equipment and materials.”

Restoration is nothing new to Mr Callesen as he restores antique cars as a hobby.

On the tractor job, he started by taking hundreds of photos of the three original tractors that are now in museums in Canterbury, Auckland and France.

“I’ve never restored a vehicle using a laptop before. I could blow the photos up on the computer and was able to look at every minute detail, where the bolt was placed, where each hole was drilled,” said Mr Callesen.

“You can see in the book that the three original tractors that left New Zealand were a lot different to those that arrived at the South Pole. I took on the challenge of building one as it was when it arrived at the South Pole.

“Sir Edmund Hillary was asked by a friend once what was his greatest achievement. Astoundingly, he didn’t say climbing Mt Everest; he thought his greatest achievement was taking three farm tractors to the South Pole.”

Mr Callesen says he too now appreciates Sir Ed’s accomplishment on a whole new level and hopes this book will enlighten and inspire all those who read it.

The book, ‘Something Different – The Hillary Tractor Restoration’ is only available at The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, Aoraki Mt Cook at a cost of $16.50 and will be available for purchase from 20th December. It is a 38-page volume beautifully illustrated with historic photos of the expedition as well as those of the replica tractor. It was designed and produced by Karl Fountaine of Fountaine Design in Christchurch.


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