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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 November, 2004, 02:04 GMT
Sir Edmund blasts US pole 'road'
Hole, Antarctic Sun/NSF
The US highway is more of a marked track than a road
New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary has strongly criticised the activities of the US and Britain in Antarctica.

The 85-year-old explorer told New Zealand media that a "road" being built by the Americans across the continent was "terrible".

The half-completed project is designed to reduce the number of flights to the South Pole.

Sir Edmund said the ice highway would spoil the journey to the pole, which he reached 46 years ago.

"I'm very strongly opposed to it. I think they ought to continue using their aircraft as they have done for years and years," he told the Wellington-based Dominion Post newspaper.

The aim of the 1,600-km (1,000-mile) road is to link McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast to the Amundsen-Scott base, freeing up ski-equipped supply planes for other missions.

Sir Edmund Hillary at home in New Zealand
Sir Edmund is as plain spoken as ever
Sir Edmund is in Antarctica to mark the 25th anniversary of the continent's worst disaster - the crash of an Air New Zealand plane into Mount Erebus, in which 257 people died.

He is being accompanied on the trip by New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

Goff told the Associated Press that he understood Hilary's concerns. "He spent weeks battling against the elements to get to the pole, and it was an enormous achievement."

"Now you've got the concept of a marked route that takes away the challenge and the adventure of getting there, and that is anathema to Ed."

However, the minister said New Zealand's position was consistent with all 30 Antarctic Treaty signatories who agreed the highway was an ecologically sound project.

'Must try harder'

Sir Edmund also chastised the UK for neglecting the historic huts used by Britain's Robert Falcon Scott - who died on his way back from the South Pole in 1912 - and other early explorers.

Discovery Hut, Antarctic Heritage Trust
Scott's Discovery Hut is the least damaged, but has been pilfered down the years
Despite withstanding the battering of Antarctic weather for 100 years or so, the huts are slowly but surely falling apart. It will cost several million New Zealand dollars to preserve them for future generations.

"I believe that the people of the UK should be putting more effort into preserving the areas," he told New Zealand television.

In July New Zealand urged Britain and Norway to help fund the restoration of the huts.

In 1953, Sir Edmund and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Exploring nations asked for help
29 Jul 04 |  Science/Nature
Antarctic Scott's lasting legacy
02 Jul 03 |  Science/Nature
Everest half-century celebrated
30 May 03 |  South Asia
Highway to the South Pole
05 Mar 03 |  Science/Nature
Radar reveals the frozen continent
22 Oct 99 |  Science/Nature
Profile: Sir Edmund Hillary
27 May 03 |  South Asia


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