17 October 2022

Reunion of OAEs and OMMs - Christchurch and Lewis Pass Sept / Oct 2022

This year I attended two get-togethers. The first was a gathering of OAEs (Old Antarctic Explorers - NZers in Antarctica prior to 1964). This had been attempted just prior to Covid's arrival in NZ - in fact the group had just gathered for the Meet and Greet in Christchurch when all their phone emergency alarms went off and they had to scatter for home. After a couple more aborted planning attempts we finally made it. There were a few dignitaries and guest speakers and we all relished our combined stories and company.

Mike White and Shackleton's Whisky - and half of Lyn, Mike's wife. 

Replica of the "James Caird", the boat that Shackleton, Worsley, Crean, McNeish, McCarthy and Vincent sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia after the Endurance was crushed by ice and sank in 1915.

I was pleased meet and hear from such people as Peter Otway and Frank Graveson. Peter and team had visited and surveyed the upper Beardmore Glacier using dog teams the year after I'd been man-hauling just east of the lower Beardmore with the NZAC in 1959. Not only that, but his team had sledged down the Axel Heiberg Glacier, the one Amundsen had used on his journey to and from the pole. A remarkable repetition of Amundsen's descent. I'd never met Peter before. And Frank was part of a long exploratory journey in unexplored Northern Victoria Land, also with dog teams. We all gave our own little stories of our expeditions. On the second night we had a dinner and sampled Mackinnon's reconstituted version of the whisky found under Shackleton's Hut a few years ago. 

Unfortunately we are all getting a bit thin on the ground these days. There were only about 20 of us at the reunion and that included some surviving wives as well. Some of our elderly antics were found to be quite amusing by some who were also showing their own amusing antics (if that makes any sense). Some were more amusing than others, too.

The next day Jim Wilson, Mike White [OAEs as well as OMMs (Old Mountain Mates)] and I took off for the Lewis Pass area where we visited and stayed in the hut at Lake Daniell and a couple of nights at the newish Magdalen Hut just off the St James walkway. We are now in our latish eighties and our times for tramping to and from these huts were nothing to skite about (in fact shameful!!).  It rained a bit on the first day but otherwise the weather was kind to us. Both places were very scenic and we spent time wandering about the lake or collecting firewood for the huts. 
Walking in to Lake Daniell

Lake Daniell

As usual on these trips we met kind and interesting people - including three men with their daughters - great to see. And it was very gratifying to have the young-uns moving aside or even out into tents to give 'we elderly three' bottom bunks - respect for the old and frail is still alive and well. On our last day out we had our traditional billy boil and cuppa. A great few days and even more lies and stories were told.

The Traditional Billy Boil.


  1. Great to read Barry and to see some familiar names in there. I will pass it on to Jim. Robyn D

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