History of the Society

Established in 1933, the Society looks forward to celebrating its 100th anniversary

Don Webster drilling a hut tie-down anchor. Arrival Heights 1959-1960. © Don Webster.

A proud history

The New Zealand Antarctic Society is one of the longest running Antarctic societies in the world. Except for a small recess during World War II, it has been active throughout New Zealand since its establishment and enjoys an international membership.

A gathering of like minds

On 2 November 1933,  a group of influential New Zealanders – spurred on by businessman Arthur Leigh Hunt, Managing Director, Dominion Farmers’ Institute, and a friend of Joseph Kinsey, and Antarctic adventurers Rear Admiral Byrd and Douglas Mawson – held a meeting to discuss the future of Antarctica. This was the inaugural meeting of the New Zealand Antarctic Society.

Although Hunt was never to set foot in Antarctica, many of the men at the founding early meetings were to become prominent figures in the New Zealand Antarctic programme.

Byrd (with pet dog Igloo), Mawson and Hunt.

Flag raising ceremony, Scott Base, 1957. Photo John Claydon. © Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection.


The Society took an active role in creating public and political support for New Zealand’s involvement in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) 1955-1958 and International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-1958. These expeditions established Scott Base and New Zealand’s continuous scientific presence in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Key figures of this period, Sir Edmund Hillary, Leader of the TAE’s New Zealand Party and Dr Trevor Hatherton, Leader of the IGY, were both influential in the Society.


Hut restoration teams

In 1960, at the invitation of the Antarctic Division of the then Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), the Society established Hut Restoration Teams. Working throughout the 1960s to the early 1980s, groups of volunteer caretakers were chosen annually from Society members to care for the historic huts left behind by Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink.

The huts are now cared for by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, which has a long-term conservation programme in place. The Society’s President holds a board position on the Trust in recognition of the years of service Society members gave to the protection of these iconic structures, and the work the Society continues today in advocating for the protection of this legacy.

The Society's Hut Restoration Team 1964-1965. © Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection.

Society volunteers atop Castle Rock, Ross Island. © Field Trainer Richard Bottomley.

Keeping the Antarctic spirit alive

The Society maintains an active participation in the conversation about the Antarctic region. Today, it strengthens the Antarctic community through its many activities and events. These include special projects such as creating the oral history archive, commissioning commemorative plaques and public statues, and creating an online searchable archive of 60 years of the Antarctic magazine. Events are held throughout New Zealand each year, in collaboration with many partner organisations, to help keep the Antarctic spirit alive.

Access to our Antarctic magazine archive

First published in 1950 and still relevant today

Inspired by people’s interest in the Antarctic region, the Society’s flagship magazine, Antarctic, is available as an online searchable archive. Offering more than sixty years of news and stories, the archive contains a wealth of detail and commentary on New Zealand and other nations’ activities in the Antarctic region.

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