Abel Tasman sights New Zealand in December 1642 while searching for Terra Australis Incognita. This 'great southern continent' is believed to exist east of Australia and west of Cape Horn. By the time Tasman sails away from New Zealand in early January 1643, he has mapped only a 'ragged line' and is unable to confirm whether this was the coast of the 'great southern continent'.
James Cook voyages to New Zealand to determine the eastern tip of the land Tasman had sighted. The voyage confirms this is not the 'great southern continent'.
Marc Joseph Marion du Fresne, a French explorer, arrives in the Bay of Islands after searching for the 'great southern continent'. About five weeks later he and a number of members of his expedition are killed by local Maori.
Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, a Russian naval officer, becomes one of three Europeans to first sight the continent of Antarctica (three men sighted Antarctica within days or months of each other). He and his men spend a week in Queen Charlotte Sound between voyages into Antarctic waters.
Captain Charles Wilkes, leader of the United States Exploring Expedition, provides the first evidence that a ‘land of continental extent', Antarctica, exists in part of the area thought to contain the great southern land. Involved in the expedition is a New Zealander, Tuati, also known as John Sac. Wilkes and his men subsequently visit New Zealand, travelling extensively in the Bay of Islands.
James Clark Ross, a British naval officer, discovers the Ross Sea, Victoria Land, Mt Erebus, Mount Terror, the Victoria barrier (the Ross Ice Shelf) and McMurdo Sound. Ross and his men subsequently visit New Zealand, remaining in the Bay of Islands for three months.
24 January 1895
New Zealander Alexander von Tunzelmann joins six men from the Norwegian whaling and sealing ship Antarctic in the first substantiated landing on the Antarctic continent proper. Prior to its voyage south, the ship calls in for repairs at Port Chalmers, then recruits Tunzelmann and three other New Zealanders at Stewart Island.
Carstens Borchgrevink, a Norwegian explorer, leads an expedition to make the first deliberate wintering over on the continent. The expedition's ship, the Southern Cross, voyages to New Zealand in March 1899 to load stores and overhaul the vessel before returning to pick up Borchgrevink and his wintering team in December 1899. The ship returns to New Zealand following the completion of the expedition.
British explorer Robert Falcon Scott leads the British National Antarctic Expedition, or Discovery expedition - the first real land expedition in the Antarctic. It aims to carry out scientific research and geographical exploration. The expedition uses Lyttelton as its New Zealand base, and receives great support from New Zealanders. This encourages Scott to rely on New Zealand to a greater extent in his next expedition in 1910-13. A New Zealander, Clarence Hare, is taken on as a steward.
British explorer Ernest Shackleton leads the British Antarctic Expedition, or Nimrod expedition, that penetrates the farthest south yet – within 160 km of the Pole. The expedition uses Lyttelton as its New Zealand base, and receives significant support from the New Zealand government and the public. A number of New Zealanders are also involved.
14 December 1911
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen is the first to reach the South Pole. He visits New Zealand in March 1912 to lecture to crowded audiences.
The British Antarctic Expedition, or Terra Nova expedition, led by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, succeeds in reaching the Pole. Although the expedition has further objectives in scientific research and geographical exploration, the main objective is ‘to reach the South Pole and to secure for the British Empire the honour of this achievement’. But Scott's polar party is beaten by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, and they perish on the return journey. The news of this tragedy is transmitted to London from New Zealand. Lyttelton is again the expedition's New Zealand base – the Terra Nova officially leaves from the port (though the last port it visits is Port Chalmers) and returns there during the expedition. The majority of expedition members also disembark at Lyttelton after the tragedy.
The Japanese Antarctic Expedition, led by Japanese army lieutenant Nobu Shirase, which aims to reach the Pole, is the first Japanese exploration of Antarctic territory. Its ship, the Kainan Maru, calls in to Wellington for fuel and supplies on its way to and from the Antarctic.
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Australian geologist Douglas Mawson, aims to chart the coastline of Antarctica to the south of Australia. The expedition is not financially supported by the New Zealand government, but does receive significant donations of goods from New Zealand manufacturers. New Zealanders are also directly involved: Eric Webb is chief magnetician and Dr Leslie Whetter medical officer at the expedition's main base at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay; Harold Hamilton is chief biologist and A.J. Sawyer chief wireless operator at its Macquarie Island station. Other New Zealanders collect specimens on cruises into the sub-Antarctic and work aboard the expedition's ship, the Aurora.
The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, or Endurance expedition, led by British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, aims to complete the first land crossing of Antarctica. It fails entirely in this aim and is instead remembered as an incredible survival story. Its two parties sail to opposite sides of the Antarctic continent, with separate tasks, but both eventually find themselves trapped in inhospitable surroundings with insufficient supplies. The navigation skills of a New Zealander, Frank Worsley, play a crucial role in the rescue of the main party, while other New Zealanders, and the government, contribute to the rescue of the support party.
Shackleton and New Zealander Frank Worsley are due to head back to the Antarctic on the Shackleton-Rowett expedition on board the Quest. The expedition is cut short following Shackleton's sudden death in South Georgia. Another New Zealander, pilot Major Roderick Carr, accompanies the expedition.
30 July 1923
Britain declares sovereignty over Ross Dependency, with administration allocated to New Zealand.
The Byrd Antarctic Expedition, or BAE1 as it later becomes known, led by American polar explorer and aviator Richard E. Byrd, aims to explore the Antarctic continent by land and air. They establish a base camp, Little America, and explore the continent using planes. On 29 November 1929 Byrd, his pilot, co-pilot and photographer, make the first flight over the South Pole. Dunedin is the expedition's New Zealand base – Byrd's ships leave from and return there during the expedition, and his dogs are quarantined on Quarantine Island. Several New Zealanders serve with the expedition.
The British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, or BANZARE, led by Douglas Mawson, aims to investigate the entire coast of the territory over which Britain claims sovereignty. The expedition receives funding from New Zealand but there is no physical contact with the country. Two New Zealand scientists serve in the expedition: ornithologist Dr R.A. Falla and meteorologist R.G. Simmers.
The New Zealand Antarctic Society (NZAS) is established with the aim of bringing together people interested in Antarctica. Since its first meeting it has been involved in a wide range of Antarctic activities, including lobbying government to commit resources.
The second Byrd Antarctic Expedition, or BAE2 as it later becomes known, led by Richard E. Byrd, aims to answer some of the questions unresolved by his previous expedition. It makes extensive use of motorised land transport. In 1934 Byrd spends five winter months alone operating a meteorological station, Advance Base, and is lucky not to die after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning from his poorly ventilated stove. Wellington is the expedition's New Zealand base – Byrd's ships leave from and return there during the expedition. Several New Zealanders serve in the expedition, including Bob Young, who also served in BAE1, and Louis Potaka.
American aviator and explorer Lincoln Ellsworth aims to make the first non-stop flight from the Ross Sea to the Weddell Sea. He fails in both his summer expeditions and New Zealand assists in a relief expedition in January 1936. Ellsworth uses Dunedin as his New Zealand base and New Zealanders serve in the expedition.
The United States Antarctic Service Expedition, led by Richard E. Byrd, does not generate the same amount of interest as previous Byrd expeditions as the New Zealand public is preoccupied with news of the war. Eventually the expedition is abandoned altogether because of rising international tensions.
The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, better known as Operation Highjump, led by Richard E. Byrd, is under the operational command of Admiral Richard Cruzens. Some of the vessels involved visit New Zealand ports during the expedition and Byrd visits at the end. A smaller follow-up expedition, Operation Windmill (1947-48), led by Commander Gerald Ketchum, does not have the same contact with New Zealand.
The Russian Antarctic Expedition's supply ship, Ob, visits the Wellington.
This is a period of intense activity in the Antarctic. New Zealand contributes directly to the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and the International Geophysical Year. Vessels, aircraft and personnel from the American Operation Deep Freeze also use New Zealand as a base for their expedition. Key events that involve New Zealand include:
6 March 1964
A fire destroys further buildings at Hallett Station. They are not rebuilt. The station continues to be used as a summer-only base.
27 October 1965
The RNZAF's first flight from New Zealand to Antarctica. In ‘Operation Ice Cube’, a Hercules of No 40 Squadron makes the first of what become annual summer flights.
A biological laboratory, Harrison Laboratory, is established at Cape Bird.
New Zealander Peter Barrett discovers the first tetrapod remains in Antarctica.
Zoologist Marie Darby becomes the first New Zealand woman to visit the Antarctic mainland.
The Antarctic Division moves to Christchurch.
Hallett Station closes.
Canterbury Museum's Antarctic exhibition opens.
Reconstruction of Scott Base begins.
20 January 1982
Scott Base celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The last ‘New Zealand’ dogs return from Scott Base.
The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust is formed to care for historic sites located in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica.
One of the original huts at Scott Base, ‘A Hut’, is moved 40 m. ‘B-Hut’ is dismantled and returned to New Zealand.
The International Antarctic Centre opens at Christchurch Airport.
Vanda Station is closed following environmental concerns.
1 July 1996
The New Zealand Antarctic Institute (Antarctica New Zealand) is established. Combining the work of the RDRC and the NZAP, it will develop, manage and administer New Zealand's activities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, particularly the Ross Sea region.
25th anniversary of the Erebus disaster is commemorated. Sir Edmund Hillary opens the Hillary Field Centre, the final stage of the reconstruction of Scott Base.
1 September 2006
The New Zealand Antarctic Medal is instituted as a New Zealand Royal Honour to replace the (British) Polar Medal.
20 January 2007
Scott Base celebrates its 50th anniversary. As part of the celebrations a new atmospheric science laboratory opens at Arrival Heights.