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Stamps Commemorate Intrepid Antarctic Adventures


Stamps Commemorate NZ’s Intrepid Antarctic Adventurers

The 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) is being commemorated in New Zealand Post’s Ross Dependency stamp issue.

The expedition involved Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Led by British adventurer Dr (later Sir) Vivian Fuchs, local hero Sir Edmund Hillary supported the New Zealand contingent.

TAE aimed to replicate the goal of epic adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton to achieve the first crossing of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea, with a Ross Sea support group. Hillary’s role was to establish supply depots towards the South Pole for the Fuchs crossing party and also for his own tractor and dog team parties.

The New Zealand Government committed £50,000 to the 3473 km expedition. Six hundred and sixty five people applied to join the New Zealand part of the expedition, while a public appeal was launched to help raise funds to support what was considered the last great expedition in Antarctica.

Fuchs and his advance party established the Weddell Sea base in the summer of 1955 – 56. Hillary and his team, travelling on the HMNZS Endeavour arrived at McMurdo Sound in early January 1957 and established Scott Base on Ross Island

The mess hut at Scott Base was completed on 20 January 1957 and the New Zealand ensign was officially raised for the first time in New Zealand’s Ross Dependency.

Life in the ice settled down for both teams into a routine of preparation, planning and forward reconnaissance work. Hillary’s team was to reconnoitre a route through the mountains and across the Polar Plateau towards the South Pole, establishing the supply depot for the crossing party. The two leaders were to meet at Depot 700 but Fuchs was delayed by difficult crevasse areas. Faced with the prospect of an unacceptably long wait, Hillary decided to press on, reaching the pole on January 4, 1958 with less than a drum of fuel to spare.

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Sir Lawrence Kirwin, director of the Royal Geographic Society was to say, "good old Ed.” Fuchs arrived at the Pole on January 19 and was greeted warmly by Hillary.

The New Zealand Government acquired Scott Base from TAE on March 5 1958.

Retired Wing Commander John .R. Claydon, who provided many of the images used in the stamps, says the stamps bring his memories back to life.

“Looking at these stamps takes me back 50 years to that time. It was exciting to be part of the team which helped Sir Ed reach the South Pole.”

New Zealand Stamps general manager Ivor Masters says this is a slice of New Zealand Antarctic history, New Zealand Post is proud to commemorate.

“These men were very brave. They were the modest heroes of their time but their feats still loom large in the minds of New Zealanders at Scott Base. We hope these stamps bolster interest in New Zealand’s role in exploring what was the last unexplored continent.”

50c – Beaver aircraft
$1.00 – Sledge – featuring experienced mountaineer and dog handler Harry Ayres
$1.50 – Sledge dogs
$2.00 – Ferguson tractor
$2.50 – HMNZS Endeavour – set sail from Wellington in 1956 carrying the Ross Sea support crew

The Trans Antarctic Limited Edition contains the full set of stamps plus comprehensive commentary from David Harrowfield. New Zealand Post is also issuing a Mini gold proof coin and a silver proof coin. The stamps, Limited Edition range and coins will be available for purchase from November 7 at all New Zealand Postshops, Real Aotearoa stores in Christchurch and Auckland, the Wanganui Stamp Centre and online at


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