Following in his family footsteps

19:25, Feb 15 2013
SCOTTISH-BORN: William McDonald
SCOTTISH-BORN: William McDonald

Richie Hunter has returned to Christchurch after treading the same Antarctic path as his great-grandfather did a century ago.

Hunter, 28, is a field training instructor with Antarctica New Zealand and had worked out of Scott Base since October.

His great-grandfather was aboard the Terra Nova, which supported Captain Robert Scott's doomed South Pole expedition.

Richie Hunter

Scottish-born William McDonald sailed from Lyttelton on the second and third Terra Nova voyages.

Hunter, an experienced mountain guide, applied to work as field training instructor with Antarctica New Zealand two years ago.

He was selected for the role, but an extensive medical found that he had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a rare heart condition.


He had surgery, recovered well, and Antarctica New Zealand took him on this summer.

Hunter spent the season supporting Antarctica New Zealand's science programme.

Hunter said he knew only "bullet points" about his great-grandfather's experience before travelling to Antarctica, but the trip had left him wanting to learn more.

He visited historic sites, such as the "well-weathered" Discovery Hut at Hut Point on Ross Island, where his relative once trod. Hunter could smell seal blubber dripping from carcasses on the floor in the hut and see marks on the floorboards from where the men cut their meat.

"It just looks like they up and left. They have walked off and never come back. They would have built the hut, finished with it and moved on," he said.

McDonald helped build the cross on Observation Hill, erected in honour of Scott's fallen party 100 years ago, which is visible from Hut Point.

"He [McDonald] worked in far tougher conditions," Hunter said. "I wonder what he would think about our modern-day clothing, Hagglunds, helicopters with heaters, and variety of glove choices. I certainly wouldn't tell him about the hot sausage rolls we get for morning tea."

The Press