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Antarctica and New Zealand

Page 2 – First among men

New Zealanders were involved in a number of significant Antarctic firsts - notably, the first landing on the continent proper in 1895 and the first overland crossing between 1955 and 1958. For some, this was the beginning of a long relationship with the continent; for others, it was a fleeting moment that nevertheless saw their name live on in history.

Tuati – first New Zealander to see Antarctica

Tuati was the first New Zealander to see the coast of Antarctica, in 1840. He was a crew member on the 1838–42 United States Exploring Expedition to the southern ocean. The expedition, led by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, provided the first evidence that Antarctica was a continent. Read more about Tuati

Alexander von Tunzelmann – first landing on Antarctica

New Zealander Alexander Francis Henry von Tunzelmann is sometimes named as the first person to set foot on the Antarctic mainland. Seven men from the Norwegian whaling and sealing ship Antarctic, including Tunzelmann, made the first substantiated landing on the continent on 24 January 1895. They landed within seconds of each other, and it is unclear was the first ashore. Read more about von Tunzelmann and the first landing

Clarence Hare – on first Antarctic land expedition

New Zealander Clarence Hare was a steward in the first expedition on land in the Antarctic. The British National Antarctic Expedition (1901-04), known as the Discovery expedition, was led by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott. Hare's name is recalled in most accounts of the expedition - for the observations he made in his diary, and for his miraculous return from a disastrous sledging journey. Read more about Hare and the first land expedition

Sir Edmund Hillary – led first party to reach Pole overland since Scott

Sir Edmund Hillary led the New Zealand component of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) in 1955-58, under the overall command of the British explorer Dr Vivian Fuchs. The expedition completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica, via the South Pole, on 2 March 1958. The New Zealanders supported the expedition by setting up Scott Base, and by laying food and fuel depots for the British crossing party. Then, against the instructions of the Ross Sea Committee, Hillary led a ‘dash to the pole'. On 4 January 1958 his became the first party to reach the South Pole overland since Scott in 1912, and the first to reach it in motor vehicles. Read more about Hillary's Antarctic experiences

Peter Barrett – discovered first tetrapod remains in Antarctica

New Zealander Peter Barrett discovered the first tetrapod remains in Antarctica in 1967. Subsequent research that identified the remains provided the first evidence that land vertebrates had roamed Antarctica when its climate was warm, and lent support to the then controversial theories of continental drift and Gondwanaland. Barrett's contribution to Antarctic science goes beyond this ‘serendipitous discovery' as a doctoral student. He has also been acknowledged as the 'supremo' of the geological drilling community in Antarctica. Read more about Peter Barrett's contribution to Antarctic science

What about our women? – first NZ women to visit Antarctica

The first New Zealand woman to visit the Antarctic mainland was zoologist Marie Darby in January 1968. The first to work in Antarctica, and the first to set foot at the South Pole, was Pamela Young in the summer of 1969-70. New Zealander Thelma Rogers of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research became the first woman to winter over in Antarctica in 1979. Read more about the experiences of the first NZ women in Antarctica


Read more about other New Zealand explorers and scientists associated with Antarctica in this feature or on the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography website:

How to cite this page

First among men, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated