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The Sir Edmund Hillary Collection

By NZ On Screen team
21st October 2013

 The Sir Edmund Hillary Collection

The Sir Edmund Hillary Collection

 NZ On Screen team

By NZ On Screen team


Sir Edmund Hillary Onscreen

This collection celebrates the onscreen legacy of Sir Edmund Hillary, from triumphs of endurance and exploration (first atop Everest, tractors to the South Pole, jet-boats up the Ganges) and a lifetime of humanitarian work, to priceless scenes adventuring in the NZ outdoors. Tom Scott and Mark Sainsbury — Ed’s TV biographers-turned-mates — introduce the survey.



 Magic Kiwis - Sir Edmund Hillary

This Magic Kiwis episode pays tribute to the exemplar. The greatest “damned good adventures” of Hillary’s career up to 1989 are bagged, including his first peak (Mt Ollivier — reclimbed with son Peter here) and of course Everest, whose ascent is recreated with commentary from Ed himself.

 Hillary Returns

In this NFU newsreel Hillary — fresh from the conquest of Everest and accompanied by Kiwi expedition mate George Lowe — arrives home to a hero's welcome. He muses about the last challenging step (soon to be named Hillary's Step) and the Southern Alps as preparation for knocking “the bastard off”.

 The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary - The Kaipo Wall (Part One)

This two-part 1974 documentary saw director Roger Donaldson follow Ed and an A-Team of mates on a mission into the Fiordland wild. Extreme mountaineering, whiteouts and unrafted rapids — as well as a DIY yacht built with a tent fly (Bear Grylls take note) — make for a classic old school adventure.

 From the Ocean to the Sky

This Feltex Award-winning documentary follows Sir Ed and team (including son Peter) in Kiwi-invented jet-boats on a 1977 mission upriver from the mouth of the Ganges to its source high in the Himalayas. The crew faces epic white water, altitude sickness and tigers on their adventure pilgrimage.

 Hillary: A View from the Top - The Early Years

These excerpts from Tom Scott’s award-winning 1997 series look at young Ed. Hillary recalls a school trip to Ruapehu that inspired a “fiery enthusiasm” for adventure, and a young man’s frustration with his “miserable, uninteresting life” that led to famous climbs of Mt Tapue-o-uenuku and Mt Cook.

 Beyond the Edge

Beyond the Edge tells the story of Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s 1953 first ascent of the world’s highest mountain. Director Leanne Pooley (The Topp Twins) mixes archival material with 3D camera-shot recreations to put viewers in the climbers’ crampons; it debuted at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.

 The Great Achievement

This 1958 doco films the Sir Ed-led NZ team laying supply depots for Vivian Fuchs’ Trans-Antarctic Expedition. After Fuchs was delayed, Hillary (despite low fuel and official reluctance) made the famous call to 'go for the Pole' in his Ferguson tractors — “the best crevasse detectors ever invented”.

 Off the Beaten Track

In this guide to remote NZ Sir Ed receives a tokotoko in the far north, goes fishing, goes bush, and tackles a 1971 grand traverse of Mount Cook with Harry Ayres, Mike Gill and Graeme Dingle. Not bad for a self-described "middle-aged family man who has tried to keep himself reasonably fit". 

 Antarctic Crossing

Hillary’s Kiwi Everest mate George Lowe directed this Oscar-nominated film of the TAE. Lowe tracked Fuchs’ party, with Hillary’s NZ support crew coming from the other side. Sir Ed made the Pole on 4 Jan 1958. Fuchs touched base on the 19th — Sir Ed: “Hello Bunny.” Fuchs: “Damn glad to see you Ed.”

 Holmes - Hillary's Trek: Everest

Journalist Mark Sainsbury accompanied Sir Ed on a "testimonial trek" to Nepal in this 1991 Holmes special. On the health risks of returning to high altitude ‘Barrah Sahib’ (the Big Man) noted: "I have the alternative of lolling on a sun-drenched beach [...] something I find exceptionally boring".

 Holmes - Hillary's Trek: His Legacy

The second of three 1991 Holmes segments on Hillary in Nepal, this piece looks into the schools and hospitals Hillary helped establish in Himalayan villages. Sir Ed and Lady June Hillary join the 30th anniversary celebrations of Khumjung School, an early project instigated by the Himalayan Trust. 

 Holmes - Hillary's Trek: The Sherpas

The last of three 1991 Holmes pieces looks into the lives of the Sherpas, their unique connection with Sir Ed and their apprehension as he ages. Sir Ed responds typically "I have quite a lot of motivation, but I don't regard myself as a hero at all — I'm petrified most of the time".

 The Adventure World of Sir Edmund Hillary - The Sea Pillars of Great Barrier

This Adventure World edition — directed by Mike Gill — sees the crew go a mission to climb The Needles, a rock stack off Great Barrier Island. Peter Mulgrew sails them over, Murray Jones goes parkour and scales a kauri, Graeme Dingle surfs a dingy, and Sir Ed is the “peppery co-ordinator”.

 The Glacier Climbers

In this classic NFU film a group of climbers on a Southern Alps traverse bump into Ed, Murray Ellis and Harry Ayres at Malte Brun Hut. Hillary et al go for a ramble before the group descend the Tasman Glacier. Ayres reflects on the Alps as training ground for famous polar and Everest expeditions.

 Holmes - Sir Edmund Hillary

In this clip Holmes interviews Sir Ed on the occasion of being awarded Humanitarian of the Year by the International Variety Club, in recognition of his work for the people of Nepal. His award put him alongside former recipients of this award Winston Churchill, Helen Keller and Sammy Davis Jr.

 Good Day - Sir Edmund Hillary

In this interview Hillary discusses From the Ocean to the Sky, a book about his 1977 jet boat mission up The Ganges. A reflective Sir Ed talks adventure, spirituality and his 'escapist' relationship with Nepal; and is probed by Alison Parr on his reluctance to include single women on expeditions.

 Encounter - Sir Edmund Hillary

In this Nepal-filmed interview for the 70s current affairs show Hillary discusses his aid missions in the country and his friendship with its people. The famed explorer talks about the pros and cons of Western influence on Nepal, and visits schools and hospitals he helped to establish. 

 Antarctic Adventure

This NFU film chronicles a milestone in NZ's polar presence. It follows Kiwi members of the Commonwealth Polar Expedition as they leave Wellington in late 1956 and sail through storms and pack ice. Led by Hillary, they build Scott Base and lay the groundwork for meeting Fuchs’ British contingent.  

 Antarctic Prelude

In this NFU reel Sir Ed and colleagues review a mission in advance of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Ed meets George Lowe in Uruguay and they blast their way south to unload supplies (including the soon-to-be-famous Ferguson tractors). This footage was shot on 16mm film by Hillary himself.

 The Years Back - The Big Ice (Episode 12)

New Zealand's relationship with Antarctica and the explorers and scientists who went there is the focus of this Years Back episode. Footage of Sir Robert Falcon Scott on the ice is featured, and clips of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s epic survival tale, and of course Sir Ed's defiant dash for the Pole.

 Ross Sea Appeal - Children Meet Hillary

This November 1955 newsreel sees Hillary addressing 2000 Wellington school children, in a mission to win support for Kiwi efforts as part of Sir Vivian Fuchs’ Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Hillary shakes hands with pint-sized fundraisers, and one of his crew models Kiwi-made cold weather gear. 

 Fair Go - Episode 30 (2007)

This 30th birthday Fair Go episode features a classic spoof from the archives in the third clip. Sir Ed (along with Helen Clark, Peter Dunne and Spiderman) endorses “lawn aerator sandals”, a jandals-meets-crampons product that “looks like it could’ve got me and Tenzing up Everest twice as fast.”

“He represents the better part of ourselves”

“He represents the better part of ourselves”

A View from the Top writer Tom Scott reflects on his relationship to Hillary and what “our most famous son” means to Kiwis. Read >

Planet Ed

Planet Ed

Broadcaster Mark Sainsbury on filming Ed, on Hillary's life being “saved by his own legacy”, and on farewelling a hero and friend. Read >