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Massey Ferguson supports fund-raising tractor expedition to help save Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica

Massey Ferguson is once again gearing up for another great tractor adventure.

This time Massey Ferguson is supporting the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust’s initiative to raise NZ$1 million dollars (US$724,000) to safeguard explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica.

The hut, also known as Hut A, was the first building constructed at Scott Base in the Antarctic and is where New Zealander, Hillary began his historic expedition to the South Pole in 1958 using Ferguson TE20 tractors. Now, the Antarctic Heritage Trust is embarking on a journey known as Expedition South to travel 2012 km through New Zealand with two vintage Ferguson TE20s and a brand-new MF 5612 tractor. This follows the epic Antarctica2 Expedition in 2014 in which an MF 5610 set a world record and became the first standard farm tractor equipped with tyres to reach the Geographic South Pole overland.

Sir Edmund’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 and his bunkbed were. I know he’d want it saved.”

Nearly 60 years on, Hillary’s hut is in a state of disrepair and a comprehensive Conservation Plan has been developed in order to save a valuable slice of New Zealand’s history.

Antarctic Heritage Trust Director Nigel Watson says Sir Edmund’s decision to go to the South Pole was a bold move. “No-one had been overland since Captain Scott in 1912. Sir Edmund 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.”

Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Expedition South which is planned to commence on 23rd August 2016, will follow a route from Piha Beach (one of Sir Edmund’s favourite places), located in the Auckland region of the North Island’s west coast, to Aoraki Mount Cook on South Island. The route finishes just below the Hillary Ridge which was named in honour of Sir Edmund. They will travel the same distance as the original expedition (2012 kilometres) on the three tractors.

Nigel Watson says the expedition 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, it’s still going to take them nearly four weeks and they’re likely to face all kinds of weather.”

“We’re very pleased to have Massey Ferguson on board with us and supporting such a valuable and worthwhile cause. The brand has a very strong connection with Sir Ed that stems back to his original trek to the South Pole,” says Nigel.

The 120hp MF 5612 model is on loan from Massey Ferguson and will be the support vehicle for the two TE20 tractors as they make their way across the country.

Warwick McCormick, Australia/New Zealand Managing Director and Vice President for Massey Ferguson says they are honoured to be given the opportunity to help save Sir Edmund’s legacy. “This year marks the 70 year anniversary for the TE20 tractor which changed the world of farm mechanisation and it’s wonderful to see them being used for such as great cause. We are so proud of this superb legacy of practical and innovative technology which not only helped Sir Ed achieve his daring adventure but also continue to inspire our design engineers to produce straightforward, dependable equipment to increase the efficiency and productivity of farmers all over the world.”

Along the way, Expedition South will be stopping at various schools, Hillary hotspots and events to collect donations from the public.

“We are calling on Kiwis to give a fiver,” says Nigel Watson. The $5 note has Sir Ed’s face on it so we can’t think of a better use for it than saving his Antarctic legacy.”

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.”

Nigel Watson says the Trust has already received some significant donations and pledges towards the project. The Trust plans to be able to undertake the work this summer so that it is finished in time for the 60th anniversary of Scott Base.

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