Sir Ed's Scarf

Saturday 20 July 2019

Today would have been Sir Edmund Hillary’s 100th birthday.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary heading to the ice on the HMNZS Endeavour during the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Canterbury Museum 2015.113.1035

Hillary is best known as the first person to summit the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest, but that’s just one of his many achievements.

Most of the Museum’s Hillary-related objects are connected to his involvement in another feat of exploration: the 1955–1958 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE).

Hillary led the expedition’s New Zealand contingent, which was tasked with route-finding and laying supply depots for British explorer Vivian Fuchs. Fuchs was crossing the Antarctic Continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea.

2015.113.1167 crop

Sir Edmund Hillary playing table tennis during some downtime at Scott Base. Canterbury Museum 2015.113.1167

After laying his last depot, Hillary decided to carry on to the South Pole, arriving there ahead of Fuchs on 3 January 1958. His group (Hillary, Peter Mulgrew Murray Ellis, Jim Bates and Derek Wright) was only the third to reach the Pole overland, following Roald Amundsen (1911) and Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s (1912) parties.

Some of the expedition’s vehicles, including a Tucker Sno-Cat and one of Hillary’s modified Massey Ferguson tractors, are on display in the Antarctic Gallery. Another of the expedition's Massey Ferguson tractors is displayed at Christchurch's Commodore Hotel. The Museum also cares for some of Hillary’s Antarctic apparel, including this hand-made scarf which he wore on the expedition.

Sir Edmund Hillary's scarf

Scarf worn by Sir Edmund Hillary on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Canterbury Museum 2008.85.1

Scarves like this were presented to each member of the expedition by the Canterbury Women’s institute. Each was hand-made on a home knitting machine. The coloured stripes represent the colours of the Aurora Australis. This scarf is personalised on the lower ends with "TAE 1956-8" within the shape of the Antarctic continent on one end and "Ed" on the other.

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