The Antarctic connections have added to the cultural and economic base of Christchurch. Industry has been developed around the needs of the great white continent and artists, tourists and explorers have prepared for their challenges from Christchurch.
Today the relationships Christchurch has with Antarctica are many, including research, business, tourism and art.
Christchurch’s Antarctic links
Robert Falcon Scott is a name powerfully associated with Antarctica and it is after him that the New Zealand base is named. In the heart of Christchurch there is a statue of Scott commemorating his expeditions and association with the city.
Christchurch offers a rich introduction to the continent and to the many people who, for over three centuries, have been fascinated by that awe-inspiring, mysterious, frozen land.
The early navigators
British explorer James Cook circumnavigated New Zealand in 1770 on his ship Endeavour and established that it was not part of Terra Australis Incognita (Antarctica) which he was hoping to discover.
On his second voyage, aboard Resolution, Cook reached 71° 10' S on 30 January 1774, the farthest South any ship had ever sailed before turning North to warmer climates.
By 1832 whaling ships from countries including America, Norway, France, Germany and Britain were operating from five Bank’s Peninsula bays. Their prizes were whalebone, used for corsets; oil, used in lamps; and ambergris, used in perfumes.
Robert Falcon Scott
The British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, on board his ship Discovery, sailed for Antarctica in December 1901. In 1910 he left Christchurch’s port, Lyttelton, aboard Terra Nova to try once again to reach the South Pole after his first attempt failed. Terra Nova returned to Christchurch in 1913 bringing news of the death of Scott and his four companions on their way back from the South Pole.
The great Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, and his party were the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911. Amundsen gave a public lecture in Christchurch in December 1912 and, in gratitude to Canterbury Museum for the help he had received, he donated the penknife used to cut the flagstaff marking the South Pole.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
Irishman Ernest Shackleton first travelled to Antarctica with Scott but had suffered badly on the expedition and was invalided out. In September 1907 he was back to try again with his own expedition on Nimrod.
By its very nature, Antarctica holds great fascination for scientists all over the world. Many countries have bases there from which extensive research is carried out.
Antarctica New Zealand operates this country’s Antarctic Programme at Scott Base, which in 1959 became a permanent base. The base accommodates up to 80 people in the summer and 10 people across the winter. It can also provide support services to many additional people working in the field across the Summer.
Antarctica New Zealand’s focus is on initiating, managing and delivering high quality scientific, environmental programmes related to Antarctica.
The United States Antarctic Program has had a close association with Canterbury, since 1928 when Admiral Richard Byrd made his first visit.
In 1955 Byrd assembled seven ships in Lyttelton to support his fifth and last expedition to Antarctica, leaving on 10 December aboard Glacier. Six vessels were spread out across the Southern Ocean between Lyttelton and McMurdo to act as weather stations and rescue vessels for the first flight to Antarctica.
In 1958 the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs, with Sir Edmund Hillary, achieved Sir Ernest Shackleton’s goal of crossing the entire Antarctic continent. Hillary’s tractor and Fuch’s snow cat are displayed at the Canterbury Museum.
Italy established its Antarctic base in Terra Nova Bay, in the Ross Sea, in 1986. The Terra Nova base supports up to 70 people. Italy’s Antarctic Research Programme operates out of the International Antarctic Centre.
Out and about
With such strong links over such a long time, there are many places beyond the central city that have connections with Antarctica.Ferrymead Heritage Park
Contains a huge collection of working machines, including a restored DC3 plane used for US Antarctic supply missions in the 1960s.
Open 10am - 4.30pm daily, except Christmas Day.Air Force Museum
Brings together a collection of historic aircraft, including original Beaver and Auster aircraft used in early Antarctic aviation.
Open daily 10am - 7pm
45 Harvard Avenue, Main South Road.University of Canterbury
The Macmillan Brown Library houses an extensive collection of Antarctic archives. Many of them describe original scientific expeditions to Antarctica and New Zealand's sub-Antarctic Islands. The University’s central library is also home to the Antarctic Collection.Lyttelton
Lyttelton is the port that has serviced Christchurch since the days of early European settlement. It was the last port of call for many of the early expeditions. It is estimated that 50,000 people gathered here on New Years Day 1908 to farewell Nimrod on her journey to Antarctica. Lyttelton continues to be a busy working port and is a refuelling station for several Antarctic supply vessels.Akaroa
Akaroa, the other harbour town on Banks Peninsula about an hour and a half drive from Christchurch, was originally a French whaling station.
Christchurch International Airport Complex
The International Antarctic Campus is home to the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic programmes. Over 75 per cent of the world's scientists flying to Antarctica depart from here. The Antarctic Visitor’s Centre is the modern shop window for Antarctica. This is a fun, exciting and hands-on experience for all of the family to enjoy.
The Indian Totem Pole of friendship at the entrance to the airport complex was given to Canterbury by the Oregon Centennial Commission and Portland Zoological Society in appreciation of hospitality given to personnel of Operation Deep Freeze. The totem was carved by Chief Lelooska of Oregon in 1959.
Open 9am - 8pm daily, between 20 September and 23 April and 9am - 5pm daily, between 24 April and 19 September.