Rare footage of mountaineer and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary ready to embark on his historic expedition to Antarctica has been saved from oblivion after being found in a loft.
The black and white 16mm film was discovered in February in the loft of CB Norwood, a farm machinery company in Palmerston North, North Island, New Zealand, that had supplied tractors for the 1957 expedition.
It shows Hillary, who in 1953 made history by conquering the peak of Mount Everest alongside sherpa Tenzing Norgay, being teased by team members for having a hair cut and the team leaving Christchurch, New Zealand, aboard the ship Endeavour bound for Antarctica.
Hillary led the New Zealand section of a joint Commonwealth trans-Antarctic expedition, which became the first party to reach the South Pole since Robert Scott’s ill-fated expedition in 1912.
The “rusty old can” containing the priceless film was found by CB Norwood staff member Paul Collins among junk destined for the rubbish tip.
Curious, Collins took the film home to play on his projector.
“It was magic, absolutely magic,” he told The Dominion Post.
“We tend to look at Sir Ed now as a hero but back then he was just one of the lads, one of the team. Sir Ed doesn’t feature prominently but in it they laugh about him having a haircut.”
Company spokesman Rob Edwards said the film was nearly thrown away during the loft clear-out.
“Thankfully someone thought to check and when we watched the footage we realised we were looking at an amazing piece of history.”
Copies of the footage, said to be in perfect condition, have been donated to the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre at Aoraki/Mt Cook.
It is the second new Hillary find that has recently come to light. The centre has also acquired a rare recording of an ABC Australia radio interview with Hillary in early August 1953, shortly after he conquered Everest.
Bough from an estate in Sydney, and then sold by a New Zealand bookshop, it is understood to be the only copy in existence.
Alpine centre general manager Denis Callesen was delighted to add the latest discoveries to the museum’s exhibits.
“In the radio recording you can hear a young Sir Ed, who is obviously shy and unused to media attention, talking about his epic climb of Everest,” he told The Dominion Post.
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