Antarctic Support Ship HMNZS Endeavour

The Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Antarctic Society commemorated the 50th anniverasay of the sailing of HMNZS Endeavour for Antarctica with the unveiling of a palque in Frank Kitt's Park on 15 December 2006.

In March 2008 the arrival of HMNZS Endeavour returning the first New Zealand Winter Over Team and members of the Trans Antarctic Expedition was commorated with the unveiling of the second portion of the two part plaque.

Photographs from the 15 December 2006 unveiling are available here...

Photographs from the second unveiling on 18 March 2008 are available here...
Additional pictures of HMNZS Endeavour are available here...

Order of sevice for unveiling of part one of plaque is available here...

New Zealand's first permanent foothold in Antarctica began with the establishment of Scott Base. The HMNZS Endeavour's farewell from Wellington was a significant milestone in the development of New Zealand's Antarctic activities.

After an official farewell hosted by the Governor-General, on 15 December 1956 the Endeavour destined for Scott Base departed Queen's wharf in Wellington. This began a long association with Wellington for the Endeavour as it became involved in the support of New Zealand's Antarctic programme.

The Royal New Zealand Navy accepted a major role to support the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition and International Geophysical Year, planned for 1957-9. This support role necessitated the purchase of an ice capable vessel to carry men and supplies to McMurdo Sound and to provide science support in the Antarctic. The HMNZS Endeavour was purchased in 1955 and refitted for the work ahead.

Wooden hulled, she was built in the United States in 1944 as a net layer and served in the United Kingdom's Home Fleet as HMS Pretext. In 1947 she was bought by the Falkland Islands Government and renamed John Biscoe. She was subsequently refitted for polar conditions and for three years serviced stations and parties of the Falkland Island Dependencies.

Endeavour was commissioned into the Royal New Zealand Navy on 15 August 1956. Lady Webb, wife of the New Zealand High Commissioner in London, renamed the ship while the Bishop of Portsmouth, Dr WLS Fleming, himself an Antarctic veteran, conducted the commissioning service.

Endeavour was commanded by Captain H Kirkwood, OBE, DSC, RN, the Admiralty having agreed to release Captain Kirkwood to the Royal New Zealand Navy. Captain Kirkwood had previously commanded the ship in the Antarctic for several years.

The Endeavour loaded stores and 12 Greenland huskies before sailing for New Zealand on 22 August 1956.

Prior to departing Wellington, the Endeavour took on a large quantity of stores including the prefabricated huts that were to become New Zealand's Scott Base. A farewell function was held in the Wellington Town Hall and Endeavour sailed on December 15 from xx Wharf. Those whom embarked in Wellington included Sir Edmund Hillary and members of the Ross Sea Party of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition and IGY Scott Base staff.

On 27 December Endeavour crossed the Antarctic Circle in the company of HMNZS Hawea and Pukaki. On 4 January she was moored to the ice edge about 8 miles from Butter Point. She remained there while a location for Scott Base was scouted, and on 7 January moved to the ice edge nearer Hut Point to begin the offloading of supplies.

Endeavour left Antarctica for New Zealand on 24 February 1957 leaving behind the wintering party of 17 men.

Endeavour returned south in December 1957 with the second wintering party and returned to Wellington on 17 March 1958 with the successful Trans Antarctic Expedition members, including Sir Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary.

On 26 February 1958 Cabinet approved in principle the continuation of exploration and research throughout the period of the International geophysical cooperation until 1959.

Endeavour's last voyage in support of the Antarctic programme was made during the 1960-61 season.
It is appropriate that a plaque be placed in Wellington due to the Endeavour's strong links with this city:
  • New Zealand's support for the Trans Antarctic Expedition was organised from Wellington
  • New Zealand's support for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) was organised from Wellington
  • The official farewell for New Zealand's first Antarctic expedition
  • The Endeavour embarked most of the team members for both the TAE and IGY parties in Wellington
  • Scott Base buildings were trial erected at Rongotai and were later loaded onto Endeavour in Wellington
  • All early New Zealand Antarctic Programme activity was organised by the DSIR based in Wellington
  • New Zealand's longest running science programme ,Victoria University Antarctic Expedition (VUWAE) went south for the first time on Endeavour in 1957
  • Endeavour was 'adopted' by Wellington Girls College on 6 December 1956.
  • Dates Associated with Endeavour's Departure for Antarctica
    25 October 1956 - HMNZS Endeavour arrived Wellington and remained in Wellington de-storing (cargo from London) and restoring (loading commenced Monday 3 December) during the period to her departure on Saturday 15 December 1956.
    17 November 1956 - Evening Post: EN will transport half the NZ team with priority gear for the base. Other men and equipment were carried in four US Ships; John R. Towle (large portion of expedition cargo and 3 men); Glacier (17 men and 100 tons of fuel); seaplane tender Curtiss (meat); New Zealanders at Cape Adare base to be carried in Arneb.
    25 November 1956 - Freighter Private John R. Towle arrives Wellington
    26 November 1956 - Icebreaker Atka berths Clyde Quay Wharf
    30 November1956 - Freighter Arneb arrives Wellington
    2 December 1956 - Icebreaker Northwind arrives Wellington
    6 December1956- Wellington Girl's College adopts Endeavour - ³Without wishing to belittle the efforts of the Americans in any way it was a greater endeavour to go to the Antarctic in HMNZS Endeavour than to fly there in a lot of aircraft, said the Second Naval Member (Commodore C.H. Campbell) yesterday when speaking to the pupils of Š²
    Sat 8 December1956 - Icebreaker Glacier briefly called into Wellington, offloaded some stores to other US Ships and sailed for Lyttelton (where she planned to depart 6.30pm Mon 10 Dec); berthed at Queen's Wharf
    Mon 10 December 1956 - HMNZS Pukaki sailed from Auckland for Wellington (Hawea sailed separately to Lyttelton)
    Mon 10 December 1956 - approx 4pm four US ships depart to rendezvous off Wellington with other US Ships (Icebreaker) Glacier; (tanker) Nespelen; and (cargo ship) Greenville Victory
    1100 Sat 15 December 1956 - An official farewell for HMZNS Endeavour was held in the Wellington Town Hall:

    ³The exploits of the expedition would be remembered in history when other events of today were long forgotten² said the deputy PM (Mr Holyoake).

    ³We are proud of you, very proud of you. Your great adventure is for the honour of New Zealand and the benefit of mankind² said the Governor-General (Sir Willoughby Norrie).

    The chairman of the Ross Sea Committee (Mr C.M. Bowden) said the Committee owed much to the help of the Government who had borne by far the majority of the cost of the whole expedition. Referring to the presence of two British Members of Parliament - the Marquess of Lansdowne (the Lady Lansdowne) and the Rt. Hon. E.M. Shinwell - Mr Bowden said the United Kingdom Government had made possible the acquisition of ³that sturdy ship² the Endeavour.

    Though the men of the expedition were tried at the moment from the stresses of departure he was sure that after a few days travel in the Roaring Forties they would arrive in Antarctica ³rarin' to go² said the leader (Sir Edmund Hillary).

    Also present were:
  • Leader of the Opposition (Mr Nash)
  • Mayor of Wellington (Mr Kitts)
  • The Primate of New Zealand (the Most Rev R.H. Owen) offered a prayer
  • High Commissioner for the United Kingdom
  • United States charge d'affaires
  • Service Chiefs
  • CO Endeavour
  • Men from Endeavour, Pukaki and Hawea paraded.
  • RNZNVR provided a guard of honour.
  • Royal Marines Band attended.

  • Sat 15 Dec- from the Evening Post:

    HMNZS Endeavour, New Zealand's Antarctic expedition ship, left Queen's Wharf just after 1.30pm today for Lyttelton. Before leaving the harbour she went to Shelly Bay to load explosives, which was expected to take an hour and a half. A crowd of some 200 gathered at Queen's Wharf, and many people took the opportunity to board the ship and have a last look over her. Many of the onlookers were friends or relatives of those sailing and had come for the final farewells. Cameramen - professional and amateur - were everywhere.

    Note: - There was no other farewell like that at the Wellington Town Hall. In Christchurch, Sir Edmund Hillary laid a wreath at the Scott Statue along with Deputy PM Holyoake; in Dunedin there was a morning tea at the Town Hall and a farewell function at Bluff plus informal farewells at the wharves.

    Dates associated with return of TAE Expedition Members from Antarctica
    18 March 1958 - HMNZS Endeavour arrived Wellington 0900, berthing at Waterloo Quay Wharf, after having departed McMurdo Sound on 5 March and proceeding directly to Wellington from there - notwithstanding anchoring at Port Underwood, Marlborough Sounds, on 17 March. She later departed Wellington on 27 March.
    18 March 1958 - from Evening Post:
    Sir Edmund Hillary: ³I think all of us are especially pleased to be coming back to Wellington because it was here that the expedition was largely mounted and was assisted². ³He also named Š Captain H. Kirkwood of the Endeavour 'In the beginning he looked upon us young upstarts in the Antarctic, as promising boys. I hope he believes we have learned a bit since'². There were three official receptions:
  • The Harbour Board put on a morning tea in Shed 19.
  • At 12.00 there was a civic reception outside the main entrance to the Town Hall - about 2,000 attended; afterward the leaders drove to Parliament in a type of procession.
  • There was a state luncheon at Parliament.
  • Extracts taken from the Reports to the New Zealand Government by the New Zealand Naval Board 1st April 1956 to 31st March 1959.
    Period - 1st April 1956 to 31st March 1957

    A small net layer, HMNZS Endeavour, has been acquired for use as an Antarctic research ship. She has other peacetime roles and, in war, she would be used for laying seaward defences.

    The Antarctic research ship Endeavour commissioned in the United Kingdom on 15 August 1956, and sailed from Southampton on 18 August for New Zealand. Endeavour sailed by way of London, Kingston, Cristobal, Balboa, and Papeete arriving at Auckland on 20 October 1956.

    En route to Wellington from Auckland Endeavour paid a brief call to Gisborne. On completion of storing for her stay in the Antarctic, Endeavour sailed via Lyttelton, Dunedin, and Bluff for McMurdo Sound, arriving early in January 1957. The Trans-Antarctic Expedition party was landed and the work of landing the expedition stores and buildings was carried out. The ship's company assisted in the haulage and construction work on the buildings for Scott Base. Endeavour sailed for New Zealand on 22 February calling at Campbell Island (to embark a sick member of the meteorological station), Dunedin, and Wellington, finally arriving at Auckland on 19 March 1957.

    Period - 1st April 1957 To 31st March 1958.

    The Antarctic research ship HMNZS Endeavour remained in Auckland under maintenance until early May 1957 when she proceeded via Wellington to service the meteorological station at Campbell Island. The ship then visited the Chatham Islands to embark passengers and mail for Wellington.

    Endeavour departed from Wellington on 5 June to carry out oceanographic observations en route to Raoul Island in the Kermadec group and to service the meteorological station on that island.

    After a short maintenance period in Auckland the ship in July transported a number of naval personnel to Sydney together with a quantity of ammunition and general stores for delivery to HMNZS Royalist, which was undergoing a work-up in Sydney prior to her departure for the Far East Station.

    Endeavour remained in Auckland under refit until November 1957. Visits were made to Gisborne, Picton, Greymouth, Nelson, Wellington, and Dunedin before final departure for the Antarctic on 18 December.

    Endeavour arrived in McMurdo Sound on 29 December and remained in that general area until 5 March 1958. During that period the ship and her company were fully employed in the transfer of stores and equipment, carrying out, oceanographic and hydrographic surveys, and in the preservation of Scott's Hut

    On the return passage to New Zealand Endeavour carried Sir Vivian Fuchs and his trans-Antarctic party accompanied by Sir Edmund Hillary with members of the New Zealand Antarctic Expedition. A quantity of equipment, including Snocats and the expedition's Auster aircraft, was also carried.

    At Wellington, Endeavour's first port of call on return from McMurdo Sound, an enthusiastic welcome was given to the members of the expedition on their return from the Antarctic. The ship later returned to Auckland via Gisborne.

    Period - 1st April 1958 To 31st March 1959.

    Returning in late March 1958 from a further season in the Antarctic, the Antarctic research ship Endeavour remained in the Auckland area until completion of a refitting period in mid-August. Over September and October this ship visited a number of Pacific islands, undertaking a variety of tasks for other Government Departments.

    On her islands cruise Endeavour serviced the meteorological station at Raoul Island (Kermadecs) and called at Suva to embark a fisheries officer of the South Pacific Commission for passage to the Tokelau Islands. Within the Tokelau Islands, Endeavour provided transport facilities for personnel of the World Health Organisation who were then engaged on mosquito control investigations. The ship then visited Apia and delivered a quantity of explosives to each of the islands of Rakahanga, Manihiki, Atiu, and Rarotonga in the Cook Group. Endeavour returned to Auckland in late October. Throughout this cruise an officer of the New Zealand Oceanographic institute conducted hydrological observations in connection with the International Geophysical Year. Two members of the National Film Unit were also embarked.

    After a brief visit to Napier in early November in connection with the celebrations of Hawke's Bay Centennial, Endeavour prepared for her forthcoming voyage to the Antarctic.

    The ship eventually departed from Wellington on 20 December to relieve the wintering-over party at McMurdo Sound and to service Scott Base. On passage and whilst operating in the Ross Sea, Endeavour carried out a full programme of oceanographic and hydrological research.

    After another successful period of Antarctic duty, this small ship returned to Auckland on 21 February and remained in that area for docking and refit.