Magga Dan at the ice edge Fuchs and Hillary at the South Pole Fuchs at Scott Base Sir Vivian Fuchs

Biography

The Trans-Antarctic Expedition: Aftermath

On 17th March 1958 the ship Endeavour carrying the Expedition party arrived in brilliant sunshine in the port at Wellington, New Zealand, greeted by the Magga Dan carrying the Expedition's families. A flight of New Zealand's Royal Air Force planes roared in the skies above as the people of Wellington gave the Expedition a hero's welcome. In his autobiography, Fuchs writes that "[after crossing Antarctica] at speeds of two to three miles an hour ... suddenly being driven with Ed Hillary through ... Wellington at thirty miles an hour was one of the most frightening experiences of my life!"

The Expedition docked at Southampton in May and travelled by train to London Waterloo, where they were officially welcomed by Sir Alec Douglas Home, Commonwealth Secretary. The streets were crowded as the Expedition party proceeded to the Royal Geographical Society for a press conference, in a procession of vehicles led by an open Phantom II Rolls Royce.

Two days later a private reception was held at Buckingham Palace in which Fuchs received his knighthood and every member of the expedition was presented with the Polar Medal. There followed a series of formal receptions, including an invitation to a reception hosted by the Prime Minister at Lancaster House in London, which ended with a very lively impromptu dance.

A lecture at the Royal Geographical Survey, with David Stratton, was the first of what became a tour of special appearances by various of the celebrated Expedition party, and it was here that Fuchs received the Society's Special Gold Medal.

In the months following there was endless demand for lectures and guest appearances that took Sir Vivian and his wife, Joyce, to Oslo, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris (where they were received privately by General de Gaulle). In February 1959 the Fuchs visited Washington DC, New York, Indianapolis, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal, a highlight of which was a visit to the White House to receive the National Geographical Society's Hubbard Medal from President Eisenhower.

During this time Fuchs was also able to catch up on family life. Hilary was by now married, after training as a nurse, and expecting a son. In 1959 Peter was offered a place at St John's College, Unievrsity of Cambridge, where he took a degree in Natural Sciences, majoring in Geology, and had his first experience of expeditions working in Alaska for BP.

Almost as soon as he returned from the Antarctic, Fuchs was under pressure to publish an account of the expedition, under contract with Cassell's. This he began within weeks of arriving home, and with four chapters coming from Edmund Hillary in New Zealand, the book was finished in eight weeks. Later translated into fourteen languages, sales of The Crossing of Antarctica were sufficient to close the gap in the Expedition's finances, and with the sale of one of the aircraft, the Expedition found itself in profit.

So it was that when the TAE office closed down, the Expedition formed the Trans-Antarctic Association with the remaining funds, and this Trust now makes awards on an annual basis to support individuals or organisations working in the Antarctic.

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