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Off the Beaten Track

Television, 1973 (Full Length)

Sir Ed Hillary, then in his early 50s, acts as tour guide to remote New Zealand. In the far north he receives a tokotoko (walking stick) and admires the Aupōuri people’s connection with the land. He goes bush and dives for scallops off Stewart Island and fishes on a Hollyford sandspit. In the Alps he tackles a 1971 grand traverse of Mount Cook with Harry Ayres and other mates. Not bad for a self-described "middle-aged family man who has tried to keep himself reasonably fit". Sir Ed narrates, and his down-to-earth passion for adventure makes this an inspiring travelogue.

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The Glacier Climbers

Short Film, 1964 (Full Length)

"The story of a four-day journey from Westland to Canterbury, across the Southern Alps." Narration from the four climbers accompanies spectacular alpine imagery in this classic NFU film. In crevasse country they rope up and climb to "half way across the frozen roof of New Zealand" and share a can of tinned pineapple as reward. At Malte Brun Hut they meet Sir Edmund Hillary, Murray Ellis and Harry Ayres, and they descend together down the Tasman Glacier. Ayres reflects on the Alps as training ground for famous polar and Everest expeditions.

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Hillary: A View from the Top - The Early Years

Television, 1997 (Excerpts)

These excerpts from part one of Tom Scott’s award-winning series on the life of Edmund Hillary look at his early years. Ed reflects on his youth as a gangly Auckland Grammar student, beekeeping, and a school trip to Ruapehu that sparked a “fiery enthusiasm” for alpine adventure. Coupled with a young man’s frustration with his “miserable, uninteresting life”, this passion for the hills soon led to a solo ascent of Mt Tapue-o-uenuku as an RNZAF cadet — famously done in a weekend’s leave from Woodbourne — and a 1947 ascent of Mt Cook with his mentor Harry Ayres.

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The Great Achievement

Short Film, 1958 (Full Length)

This half-hour film from 1958 documents New Zealanders in Antarctica: researching International Geophysical Year, and supporting the Trans-Antarctic Expedition by laying supply depots for Vivian Fuchs’ overland crossing. National Film Unit cameraman Derek Wright films Edmund Hillary's team, capturing the drama of their (in)famous dash to the South Pole as they roll precariously forward in converted Ferguson tractors — “the best crevasse detectors ever invented” as Hillary notes. Hillary's team got to the South Pole on 4 January 1958, 82 days after leaving Scott Base. 

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Antarctic Crossing

Film, 1958 (Full Length)

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, spotting hazards for the vehicles and dogs. NFU veteran Derek Wright filmed the Edmund Hillary-led NZ support crew coming from the other side of Antarctica, and helped drive the tractors. Worried about running out of food while waiting for Fuchs to reach the Pole, Hillary and his team headed to the Pole first, against his orders.

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Journeys in National Parks: Westland / Aoraki

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

In this episode of the Journeys series Peter Hayden travels west to east across two national parks and some of New Zealand's most sublime landscapes, from giant, ancient kahikatea forest to hotpools and creaking glaciers. Ecologist Geoff Park's (Nga Uruora) reflections on the coast-to-mountains forest, and the exploits of early surveyor Charlie 'Explorer' Douglas are woven through Hayden's journey, ending with Hayden's personal highlight of the series: climbing Hochstetter Dome with the legendary mountaineer (and Hillary mentor) Harry Ayres.  

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Journeys in National Parks: Hauraki Gulf

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand's most awe-inspiring environments in this five part series made to celebrate the centenary of our first national park. This episode of Journeys looks at the national park closest to our largest city and contemplates that relationship, featuring stories of life on the gulf's islands. A highlight is the transfer of the rare tieke (saddleback - a lively wattlebird), from Cuvier Island to ecological time-capsule Little Barrier Island "with Auckland's lights twinkling in the background". 

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Journeys in National Parks: Tongariro te Maunga

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

In this five part series presenter Peter Hayden travels through some of New Zealand’s most awe inspiring landscapes. The series was made to coincide with the centennial of the establishment of NZ’s first national park (and the fourth worldwide), Tongariro. Hayden traverses the famous crossing with priest Max Mariu, volcanologist Jim Cole, park ranger Russell Montgomery, and the young Tumu Te Heu Heu. It was the first time Tumu, now paramount chief of Ngāti Tuwharetoa, had been up the maunga; the power of his experience is clear and moving.

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Journeys in National Parks: Te Urewera

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

In this five-part series celebrating New Zealand's National Parks, presenter Peter Hayden travels through some of the country's most awe-inspiring environments. This episode - looking at the unique spiritual relationship between the Tuhoe people and the birds and bush in Te Urewera National Park - was directed by Barry Barclay. Barclay enacted his "fourth cinema" philosophy of indigenous filmmaking: "We elected to tell the contemporary story of the park through their [Tuhoe] eyes". It attracted controversy for its then-exceptional use of te reo. 

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Journeys in National Parks: Fiordland

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

In this episode of the Journeys series, presenter Peter Hayden looks at the primeval, remote wilderness of Fiordland National Park. We learn of how the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa crafted the fiords out of sheer cliffs with his adze "so the sea might run in and there'd be quiet places for people to live". On hardy boats and along the Milford Track, Hayden traces the "memory trails" of the few who have braved here: Māori pounamu collectors, sealers, cray fishermen, early naturalists Georg and Johann Forster, and pioneering conservationist Richard Henry.