$1m target to save Sir Edmund Hillary's Antarctic hut

Sir Ed Hillary (centre), Lt Vernon Houk (left) and Maj Palle Mogensen at the South Pole on January 3, 1958 (Getty)
Sir Ed Hillary (centre), Lt Vernon Houk (left) and Maj Palle Mogensen at the South Pole on January 3, 1958 (Getty)

A leaking roof, asbestos and carpet that smells of diesel are on the list of repairs for Sir Edmund Hillary's hut in Antarctica.

In all, $1 million is needed to restore the almost 60-year-old hut and give it an extra 25 years.

"We have put together a comprehensive conservation plan that details how the hut and artefacts can be conserved and maintained for 25 years. We just need to raise the funds to do that," said Antarctic Heritage Trust executive director Nigel Watson

By travelling in style down the country, it's hoped much of the money will be raised to fund the restoration. 

Expedition South is a 2012km tractor journey that will leave Piha Beach on Tuesday morning.

Three Massey Fergusson tractors, including the same Ferguson TE-20 model Sir Ed and his team had as well as a new Massey Ferguson MF5600, will travel from Piha (one of Sir Ed's favourite places) to Aoraki Mount Cook (finishing in sight of the Hillary Ridge).

The trip will be the same distance that Sir Ed and his team travelled from Scott Base to the South Pole - 2012 kilometres.

Mr Watson says it will be a hard slog.

"While our team won't be on the ice and will have far more comforts than Sir Ed and his team had, it's still going to take them nearly four weeks and they're likely to face all kinds of weather."

Hillary's Hut, also known as Hut A or the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut, was the first building constructed at Scott Base and is where Sir Ed's team began their historic Ferguson tractor expedition to the South Pole in 1957.

"No one had been overland since Captain Scott in 1912. Sir Ed was on the ice supporting the Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and his decision to push on to the Pole with three Ferguson tractors was controversial, but of course they made it - the first trip overland to the South Pole by motor vehicle."

Sir Ed's son Peter Hillary, who himself has skied from Scott Base to the South Pole, says Antarctica and the hut were very important to his father.

"Dad often talked about his time in Antarctica and the trip to the South Pole... he saw it as one of his major achievements, saying it was an extreme challenge after Everest. He spent a lot of time in that hut - it was where his office was and where his bunk bed was. I know he'd want it saved."

Peter Hillary hopes New Zealanders will dig in and help save the hut.

"Dad was quoted as saying that he was 'hell-bent on taking the South Pole - God willing and crevasse permitting'. Now I'm hoping New Zealand will be hell-bent on saving his hut. The Antarctic Heritage Trust has come up with a wonderful plan - now we just need to find the funds."