Author(s): John Thomson
In 1957 on the Antarctic Plateau Sir Edmund Hillary, the great New Zealand mountaineer, raced his expedition leader, Vivian Fuchs, to the South Pole for reasons that were never fully explained. Hillary’s spin was that the Pole was there and he had time and fuel to get there first: so he did. Hillary’s actions threw Fuchs’ Trans Antarctic Expedition into confusion. When he then suggested that Fuchs halt his march across Antarctica at the Pole and return a year later to complete the historic crossing, Hillary appeared to be approaching a state of mutiny on the ice: he was roundly criticised by many interested in Antarctic affairs, except that at home in New Zealand his spin took root and has never been vigorously challenged. Examining records that could more fully explain why Hillary acted as he did took the writer into part of the history of the TAE: the part that somehow had escaped close examination for around half a century. When the New Zealand Prime Minister heard that Hillary was to go on the expedition he remarked: "Edmund Hillary climbed Everest, they think he can climb the South Pole too."