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The History of New Zealand in Antarctica


  • 1838–1840 French and American expeditions, led by Jules Dumont d'Urville and Charles Wilkes. John Sac, a Māori travelling with Wilkes, becomes the first New Zealander to cross the Antarctic Circle.
  • 1895 New Zealander Alexander von Tunzelmann becomes the first person to set foot on Antarctica, at Cape Adare.
  • 1899 February British expedition led by Carstens Borchgrevink, including several New Zealanders, establishes first base in Antarctica, at Cape Adare. This expedition becomes the first to winter over on the continent.


  • 1902 Scott Island (formerly Markham Island) was discovered and landed upon by Captain William Colbeck.



  • 1923 Ross Dependency proclaimed on 30 July as a British Territory entrusted to New Zealand.
  • 1928 US Navy Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd leaves Dunedin for the first sea-air exploration expedition to the Antarctic. Byrd overflew the South Pole with pilot Bernt Balchen on 28 and 29 November 1929, to match his overflight of the North Pole in 1926
  • 1929 Combined UK-Australia-NZ expedition led by Douglas Mawson; New Zealand members include RA Falla and RG Simmers.


  • 1933 New Zealand Antarctic Society founded.




  • 1955I n August, The New Zealand Government decide to establish an Antarctic base as part of its contribution to International Geophysical Year (1957–58).
  • 1956 McMurdo Station established; construction of both Scott Base and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station started.
  • 1957 20 January Scott Base established in Ross Dependency.
  • New Zealand Geological Survey Antarctic Expedition (NZGSAE) of 1957–58; named the Borchgrevink Glacier
  • Hallett Station South of Cape Adare is established as a joint New Zealand-United States operation.
  • 19584 January Edmund Hillary, leading an expedition using farm tractors equipped for polar travel, arrives at the Pole, the first expedition since Scott's to reach the South Pole over land; part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Hillary and his team became the first New Zealanders to reach the South Pole.
  • New Zealand Geological Survey Antarctic Expedition (NZGSAE) of 1958–59; named the Mountaineer Range.
  • United States Operation Deep Freeze starts, based in Christchurch.
  • 19591 December Antarctic Treaty signed with other countries involved in scientific exploration in Antarctica.
  • New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) established an Antarctic Division.


  • 1964 Hallett Station destroyed by fire. It is not rebuilt but is used as a summer-only base until 1973.
  • 1965 The first flight from New Zealand to Antarctica made by a Royal New Zealand Air Force C130 (Hercules) aircraft
  • 1968 Marie Derby becomes first New Zealand woman to work in the Antarctic
  • 1969 New Zealand Geological Survey Antarctic Expedition (NZGSAE) of 1969–70 visited the Scott Glacier and named Marble Peak and Surprise Spur.
  • 12 November South Pole visited for the first time by women – four Americans, an Australian, and New Zealander Pamela Young
  • Vanda Station manned for the first time


  • 1970 Antarctic Amendment Act comes into force.
  • 1972–1974 First solo voyage to Antarctica, by New Zealand-born yachtsman and author David Lewis
  • 1974 December Joint NZ-France expedition makes first ascent, and descent into crater, of Mount Erebus.
  • Antarctic Museum Centre opened at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.
  • 1975 Prime Minister Bill Rowling had a formal proposal made at the Oslo Meeting for Antarctic to be declared a World Park.
  • 1976 Thelma Rogers, of New Zealand's DSIR, becomes the first woman to winter over on Antarctica.
  • 1977 New Zealand proclaims Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km), which provides for the zone to also include Ross Dependency's waters
  • 1978 21st Anniversary of Scott Base
  • 1979 The Mount Erebus disaster: an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashes and 257 people die.


  • 1980 New Zealand is signatory to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which comes into effect in 1982.
  • 1982 20 January Rob Muldoon becomes the first Prime Minister of New Zealand to visit Antarctica.
  • 1982 June Antarctic Treaty nations meet in Wellington to discuss the exploitation of Antarctica's minerals.
  • 1987 Closure of Scott Base Post Office (reopened in 1994)



  • 2006 October (to January 2007): New Zealanders Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald become the first people to walk to the South Pole without the aid of any supply dumps.Their plan to parasail back is abandoned.
  • 2007Prime Minister Helen Clark and Sir Edmund Hillary (aged 87) travel with an official party to Scott Base to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its founding.
  • 4 June First New Zealand Antarctic Medal (NZAM) awarded to geophysicist Dr Fred Davey.


  • 2014 - Decision to digitise the entrie pictorial collection before handing it over to Archives New Zealand
  • 2014 - Upgrade of the Hillary Field Centre at Scott Base begins to facilitate better science