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Thousands set to 'explore' Sir Ed's hut in Antarctica
Hillary's Hut © Martin Meldrum.

CHRISTCHURCH.- Scott Base’s oldest building, a hut built by a Sir Edmund Hillary-led team, is about to open its doors to the public – virtually.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, today launched Antarctic Heritage Trust’s unique virtual reality experience of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic hut at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate in South Auckland.

Developed in partnership with Auckland University of Technology over two years, the virtual reality experience allows users to explore Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica. The experience provides insight into how the 23 men of Sir Ed’s team lived and worked in the world’s most extreme environment more than 60 years ago.

Hillary’s hut was Scott Base’s first building and was built by a team led by Sir Ed to support the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the International Geophysical Year. The Trust conserved the building in time for Scott Base’s 60th anniversary in 2017.

Users can tour the five rooms of the building, viewing hundreds of artefacts from the early years of New Zealand’s Antarctic programme and learn more about New Zealand’s first presence in Antarctica.

The Trust’s General Manager Operations and Communications Francesca Eathorne who oversaw the project development, hopes thousands of people from around the world will take up the opportunity to explore the hut virtually.

A version of the full experience is available for free via Antarctic Heritage Trust’s app and the gaming platform Steam.

“Virtual reality allows people to visit these important sites without travelling there, which is expensive and difficult to do. Hopefully the fascinating stories of what Sir Ed and his team achieved will inspire people to explore.”

Professor Barbara Bollard from Auckland University of Technology, who helped collect the data to create the virtual reality, says it was a privilege to be involved in bringing the heritage site to life.

“It’s one thing to read about a place or see photos, but to interactively walk around and experience it as if you are there, really cements the connection. It creates a greater awareness and appreciation of the importance and value of these places.”

Principal sponsor Ryman Healthcare’s Chief Executive Gordon MacLeod said New Zealand’s largest retirement village operator was delighted to be asked to support the VR experience.

“This project will bring a unique Antarctic experience to thousands of people who otherwise could not get there. Sir Ed’s hut is part of the rich history of Antarctic exploration and we will be taking this experience to as many of our residents as we can. I am sure they are going to love it.”

The initial launch date in March was put on hold due to COVID19 restrictions and the nationwide lockdown.

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