Antarctic adventurer to help restore Hillary's Hut

Heritage Expeditions

Join owner and founder of Heritage Expeditions, biologist Rodney Russ, on this in depth look into the Subantarctic Islands south of New Zealand.

Gus Anning will soon leave the sunny, warm climate of the Coromandel Peninsula for the harsh beauty of the Subantarctic Islands and Antarctica.

Anning, who lives in Hikuai, near Tairua, is currently giving a series of lectures about his adventures as a guide in the Sub-antarctic Islands.

He will visit the islands next month, followed by an expedition to Antarctica in December, to help restore Sir Edmond Hillary's Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) hut at Scott Base.

Gus Anning among the megaherbs of Campbell Island.
SUPPLIED/GUS ANNING

Gus Anning among the megaherbs of Campbell Island.

Anning has been accepted by the Antarctica Heritage Trust as a volunteer for the restoration project, and will be working on the hut for about a month.

"[Sir Edmond] has been an idol growing up for most Kiwis, to be linked to something that he's been a part of is pretty cool," Anning said.

Hillary's Hut was the first building constructed at Scott Base, built by Sir Edmund Hillary and his team in 1957 before he led an historic expedition to the South Pole. 

A guided walk on Enderby Island.
SUPPLIED/GUS ANNING

A guided walk on Enderby Island.

The hut now has a leaking roof, asbestos that needs removing and its artefacts are showing signs of damage.

"The hut is in much need of some TLC, it's needing a lot of work to restore it back to it's original condition," Anning said.

It's not the first time Anning has been to Antarctica. The former sailor has worked there before as a guide on a ship.

A guided walk among the mega herbs, looking down to Perseverance Harbour, Campbell Island.
SUPPLIED/GUS ANNING

A guided walk among the mega herbs, looking down to Perseverance Harbour, Campbell Island.

He has also made many expeditions to the Subantarctic Islands, first joining the Heritage Expeditions charter as a scholarship recipient with the Enderby Trust on its 50-passenger research vessel in 2004.

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"The Subantarctic Islands hold a special place in my heart, not a day goes by that I don't think about them," he said.

The Subantarctic expeditions range from 10 to 27 days, taking tourists from Bluff to the Snares, Auckland, Campbell, Macquarie, Antipodes, Bounty and Chatham Islands, before finishing in Dunedin.

Stunning views looking down towards Northwest Bay, Campbell Island.
SUPPLIED/GUS ANNING

Stunning views looking down towards Northwest Bay, Campbell Island.

Anning looks after the Zodiac boats, driving tourists to and from the islands and giving lectures on the history of each place.

"I don't have a scientific background, my interest is more the human history," he said.

"Shipwrecks, coast watchers from World War 2 and just the general hardship for people stuck down there on those islands."

Tourists board the Spirit of Enderby as part of their Subantarctic Island tour.
SUPPLIED/GUS ANNING

Tourists board the Spirit of Enderby as part of their Subantarctic Island tour.

What made the islands so special was the flora and fauna, he said.

The islands lay in the antarctic convergence zone, where cold waters meet warmer water, bringing with it a high mix of nutrients, fishes and krill which creates a lot of life.

There are 126 bird species, including 40 sea birds, five of which are found nowhere else in the world. There are also yellow-eyed penguins, albatross and fur seals, and the islands are a breeding ground for Southern right whales.

"There's a lot of food and these small islands are teeming with wildlife," he said.

Over the years, Anning has seen flora and fauna on the islands thrive as pests are eradicated.

"Since the pests have been taken off these islands, all the herbs and all the flowers are coming back in abundance and so are all the birds," he said.

The Auckland Islands still have a problem with wild pigs, which are difficult to cull due to the dense rata bush. However, the Macquarie, Campbell and Antipodes Islands are all now pest free.

Anning began his lecture series at Tairua Library with a talk about the Auckland Islands on October 17.

The next talk will be about Campbell Island on October 24, followed by Macquarie Island on October 31 and the Antipodes Islands on November 7. The talks begin at 5:30pm.

 - Stuff

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