Explorer Journeys: Alexander Hillary

Inspiring Explorers Expedition™: Antarctic Peninsula 2019

Alexander Hillary has a deep family connection to historic exploration in the Antarctic, but even that didn’t prepare him for the sheer magic of the Continent he experienced as an Inspiring Explorer.

Alexander Hillary has adventurous blood coursing through his veins and a deep connection to the history of Antarctic exploration. The grandson of iconic Kiwi explorer, Sir Edmund Hillary, remembers being inspired by his grandfather to get out and explore from a young age. “Ed was always encouraging the spirit of adventure in us, even on a small scale like climbing trees at the beach house or around the garden.”

Alexander had hiked extensively and completed mountaineering trips in many spectacular places around the world before venturing to the Antarctic Peninsula as part of the Inspiring Explorers™ Expedition in 2019. Although he knew what to expect, he said being there was beyond anything he could have imagined. “The scale of the Antarctic is huge – the size of the mountains, the size of the ice, the huge landscape wreathed in silence, the sense of timelessness; it’s just unparalleled. Being in a kayak, a tiny little boat floating on the water, and feeling the scale, silence, and sense of being present, completely blew my expectations.”

One of Alexander’s highlights from the expedition was spotting a half-buried Massey Ferguson tractor near an old deserted whaling station, which was similar to the type used by Sir Edmund Hillary during his epic Antarctic adventures. “It was great to find the tractor, and to be having our own adventures in a place that Ed cherished.”

Getting close to the Antarctic’s incredible wildlife and landscape was another high point. “We had some of the most astounding natural encounters the planet has to offer – watching elephant seals bobbing and sleeping on the sea, porpoising Gentoo penguins following swathes of drill, and whales appearing all around us in the bay, with a huge humpback rising up and plunging gracefully back into the sea, right in front of my boat. One day in the Gerlache Strait, an iceberg the size of a small city sailed past us, which we later found out was 60,000 years old or more. That’s when the amazing becomes mind-blowing.

The talented photographer and videographer was tasked with capturing lots of photos and recording people’s experiences during the expedition. “I have a good understanding of the Antarctic and Antarctic exploration, and it was a real joy to share something that has been a passion my entire life with the rest of the team.”

During his time on the ice, Alexander had time to reflect on all that his grandfather achieved on the vast, icy continent, along with the many other heroic explorers who had come before. “For me, the expedition was a way to test my adventurous spirit, and to grasp the physical and emotional accomplishments of these great adventurers.”

Alexander says Sir Edmund Hillary would have been delighted that he was part of the Inspiring Explorers™ Expedition. “Ed loved the idea of young people exploring and would have been thrilled to see this awesome team of young Kiwis camping out in this incredible landscape, where he had so many of his own amazing adventures.”