Husky shooting cover up on Hillary Antarctic expedition
- Thursday 17th January 2019
The Sunday Times recently reported that for decades after Edmund Hillary and Vivian Fuchs completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica in 1958, the fate of the huskies used to scout safe passage through the crevassed ice fields was covered up. In his 1990 memoirs, Fuchs claimed the dogs remained with the continent's scientists to work for researchers at Scott Base but in fact, as Hillary revealed in his 1999 autobiography, he had to shoot the dogs from the British part of the expedition because they were not permitted to enter New Zealand.
Speaking for the first time about the dogs' fate, Kenneth Blaiklock who led one of Fuchs's two dog teams revealed that he and Jon Stephenson, who led the other team, were ready to feed the huskies with the meat of fifty seals to rebuild their strength but learnt that the dogs had already been killed. Earlier explorers such as Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton shot their dogs and ponies when they ran out of food, but Hillary's expedition was able to call on air support.
The Sunday Times reported that the dogs were the fist 'to reach the South Pole since 1911, when Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, pipped Robert Scott, whose team hauled their own sledges'. Hillary said he 'felt awful’ when, in his autobiography, he confessed to shooting the dogs.
David Pratt, the expedition's chief engineer said the dogs were so tired as they neared the pole that he hitched their sledge to his Snow-Cat and that the huskies only walked for the final mile for the photographers, before they were airlifted to Scott Base to be killed. The dogs from the New Zealand arm of the expedition were allowed to live with the scientists.
Above: Admiral George Dufek and Ed Hillary at the South Pole, February 1958, awaiting arrival of the Fuchs party. Hillary Museum collection.