a kiwi hero is gone

sir edmund hillary passed away last friday.

i haven’t been here long enough to fully appreciate how much he meant to new zealanders but it is clear that he meant a lot to a lot of people bridging many cultures.

(the governor-general on the left, in the centre maori performing a haka created for the event)

when hillary and tenzing summitted everest new zealand was just 2 million having just been made fully independent in 1947 by the statue of westminster. overnight (figuratively only since news traveled slowly in 1953) new zealand was in the news with a kiwi accomplishing what so many others had tried and failed to complete. he then soon went on to the south pole (first since 1911 and first on motorized equipment) and to establish new zealand’s claim to the antarctic with the founding of scott base – in continuous use ever since.

[for the saint louis crowd here’s a small world tidbit – marlin perkins of stl zoo and mutual of omaha’s wild kingdom fame was also the zoologist for hillary’s second expedition in 1960 to climb mount everest. perkin’s job was to investigate the abominable snowman. he found that the footprints were those of smaller animals such as foxes. these were melted together from the heat of the sun making them look larger and subsequently identified as the foot tracks of the snowman.]

after his adventuring days were over hillary focused on improving the lives of the sherpas through the himalayan trust that he founded. this was his focus until his death. despite all his accomplishments and honours he was very humble, including insisting that his name and number be listed in the local phonebook.

hillary was given a full state funeral with much of the country watching on big screens setup around the country

there has been quite a bit of discussion of who can fill his place. the consensus has been no one.

in 1992 new zealand redesigned its currency and despite global conventions of not featuring the living there was widespread support for having hillary on the new $5 note. sir ed agreed but insisted that new zealand’s mount cook (not everest as most assume) and a ferguson tractor (bottom left, a bit hard to see) like the one used on his polar expedition be included on the note.

they took a bit of chance putting someone still alive on their currency, but sir ed did not disappoint.

for reasons unknown the queen and her family decided that it wasn’t worth the trip to pay their respects. quite disappointing as sir ed was one of only 24 members of the order of garter – the highest honour available to members of the british empire first established by king edward III in 1348. this seems a particular snub since the news of hillary and tenzing’s summiting of everest on may 29th, 1953 was delayed 3 days to coincide with the coronation of a young queen elisabeth II.

a large group from monks from nepal made the journey.

tenzing norgay’s son was here.

total snub from the royals.

let me now offer my humble unsolicited advice to the windsors. if you want to be a monarch you have to act like one. if you want your picture on our money you have to show up for the funeral of the world’s most famous, decorated and beloved kiwi.

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