Trans Antarctic Expedition
The Trans-Antarctic Expedition
The TAE – also known as the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) – aimed to complete the first overland crossing of the Antarctic Continent – a frigid 3473 km journey from the Weddell Sea, via the South Pole, to McMurdo Sound. It was timed to capitalise on the global interest already generated by the IPY programme of 1957-58.
The TAE consisted of two teams:
• the Crossing Party, led by British explorer, Dr (later Sir)Vivian Fuchs
• the Ross Sea Party, led by New Zealand explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary.
The Ross Sea Party was charged with supporting the Crossing Party’s endeavour, by building a base at McMurdo Sound, laying supply depots and establishing a vehicle route from the Polar Plateau through the Western mountains and back to Ross Island.
Pre-Antarctic training for this epic journey began in August 1956. On 21 December 1956 the HMNZS Endeavour set sail from Wellington, New Zealand, carrying the men and a variety of transport to support their Antarctic attempt, including dogs, sno-cats, the famed Ferguson tractors and Auster and Beaver aircraft.
Upon arrival in McMurdo Sound, Hilary’s team began the onerous task of constructing the base, from which reconnaissance flights and dog teams explored possible routes for Fuchs’ Crossing Party until March 1957. In September of that year, expedition equipment was tested during coastal explorations around the Dry Valleys and Ferrar Glacier.
The Crossing Party departed from the Weddell Sea on 24 November 1957. By 19 January 1958 they had reached the South Pole and on 2 March they reached their final destination, Scott base – they had conquered the often-featureless expanse of Antarctica in just 99 days.
The Ross Sea Party support team, along with the Southern Tractor Party – Edmund Hillary, Murray Ellis, Jim Bates, Peter Mulgrew and Derrick Wright – left Scott Base on 14 October 1957 with 10 tonnes of cargo, three Ferguson tractors and a Weasel (tracked vehicle) in tow. They charted a route from Scott Base to the South Pole and cached supplies and food en-route, reaching the South Pole on 4 January 1958.
There was more to the TAE than human exploration and triumph over adversity. One of the driving forces behind the expedition was the ongoing pursuit of scientific knowledge. Geological surveys were executed along the polar route by three aircraft-assisted field parties.
The Northern Survey Party (Richard Brooke, Bernie Gunn, Guyon Warren and Murray Douglas) departed Scott Base on 4 October 1957 on a four-month exploration of the Mawson and Skelton glaciers.
The Southern Survey Party (Bob Miller and George Marsh) explored the Nimrod and Beardmore glaciers. They flew to Skelton Depot on 20 October 1957, sledging back to Scott Base and arriving on 23 February 1958.
The Darwin Glacier Survey Party (Harry Ayres and Roy Carlyon) explored the Mulock and Barne glaciers. They were joined by Selwyn Bucknell and Bill Cranfield, and together they established a route down the Darwin Glacier, before returning to Scott Base on 22 January 1958.
In total, the three scientific parties explored 103,600 km2 of uncharted continent. The Otter aircraft flew non-stop from the Weddell Sea to Scott Base (via the South Pole) on 6 January 1958, the first single engine aircraft ever to fly non-stop across Antarctica.
For more informations, check out our 50th Anniversary site http://www.scottbase50years.co.nz/index.htm
Kiwi George Lowe directed this Oscar-nominated film of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1955-58), which made the first overland crossing of the continent via the South Pole. Lowe joined mission leader Sir Vivian Fuchs’ party coming from Shackleton Base; and spotted hazards for the dogs and snowcats. NFU veteran Derek Wright shot the tractor-driven Edmund Hillary-led NZ support crew coming from the other side of Antarctica. Lowe’s Everest mate reached the Pole on 4 Jan 1958. Fuchs touched base on the 19th — Sir Ed: “Hello Bunny.” Fuchs: “Damn glad to see you Ed.” You can view the film hereSeasons1956-1958EventTrans Antarctic ExpeditionInternational Geophysical YearYouTube VideosPersonnelEdmund HillaryDerrick WrightPeter MulgrewJim BatesMurray EllisBill CranfieldSelwyn BucknellHarry AyersRoy CarlyonBob MillerMurray DouglasGuyon WarrenBernie GunnRichard BrookeVivian FuchsJohn Claydon
Sir Edmund Hillary on a Ferguson tractor leaving Depot 480 in December 1957 on his way to the South Pole
Sir Edmund Hillary drives a tractor and stores away from the side of HMNZS Endeavour while IGY Scientific Leader Trevor Hatherton rides the sled
The crossing party is welcomed at Scott Base on 2 March 1958 after completing the first overland crossing of Antarctica, a journey that took 99 days
A US Air Force C-124 Globemaster preparing for a flight to the South Pole during Operation Deep Freeze II, 1956-57
L to R: Bill Cranfield, Gp. Capt. Dix, Air Vice Marshal Kay, Wally Tarr, and Peter Tate with RNZAF ensign flying in background
Bernie Gunn and Richard Brooke at depot on the Wilson Piedmont Glacier, above Cape Roberts, collecting stores brought in by RNZAF Auster
Otter crew: Peter Weston, John Lewis, Edmund Hillary (not British Otter crew), and Gordon Haslop on arrival at Scott Base
All hands assist in fitting wings to the Beaver after winter storage in 25 knot wind, 60 degrees frost
Edmund Hillary and Rear Admiral Dufek at Scott Base in 1957 before the departure on the trip south by tractor
Northern Survey Party members Guyon Warren and Murray Douglas leave Scott Base on 4 October 1957 for a four-month exploration between the Mawson and Skelton glaciers
Biologist, Ron Balham, proudly displays his 'catch' - the result of fishing through a hole in the ice.