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Admiral Byrd and a History of the New Zealand – American Antarctic Partnership


One of the most remarkable and influential figures in Antarctic exploration is United States Navy Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd.  After a career in the United States Navy and service in the First World War, Byrd would fly into history as a groundbreaking aviator, explorer, and director of polar logistics.

In 1928 he arrived on the ice with two ships and three airplanes, constructing camp ‘LiOle America’. His team then used sled, snowshoe, snowmobile, and plane to map and record a huge amount of geographic territory.

Byrd was appointed as officer in charge of the U.S. Navy Operation Deep Freeze, and in 1955–56 established permanent Antarctic bases at McMurdo Sound, the Bay of Whales, and the South Pole.

He looked on New Zealand and the United States as “brothers”, stating, “for the 27 years I have been coming to New Zealand, the friendliness and kindness have been unfailing.”

Byrd used New Zealand as his departure point for several of his Antarctic expeditions and is a medal of honor recipient.
He was also a humanitarian and a diplomat, who fostered international cooperation and goodwill in the Antarctic region.
It's important to mention that Byrd likely could not have accomplished all of this without the support of New Zealand businessman, stockbroker and author, Arthur Leigh Hunt.


Byrd and Hunt were close friends who shared a passion for Antarctic exploration. Hunt’s business connectins helped Byrd with the logistics needed for exploring such a harsh and unforgiving environment. Hunt’s influential writing about Byrd’s
expeditions and achievements provided publicity and support for Byrd’s many missions.

It’s reported that Hunt was the first person to greet Byrd when he returned from his historic flight over the South Pole in 1929.


Their friendship laid the foundation for deeper US-NZ cooperation in the Antarctic.

  • In 1955, New Zealand hosted the US Operation Deep Freeze, which established permanent bases and airfields in Antarctica, including McMurdo Station and the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station.

  • In 1959, our countries signed the Antarctic Treaty, which set aside the continent as a scientific preserve.

  • In 1962, New Zealand and the United States jointly established Scott Base, the heart of New Zealand's Antarctic research program.

  • In 1985, our countries were among the first to ratify the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

  • In 2018, the United States and New Zealand jointly installed three wind turbines next to McMurdo Station and Scott Base, creating the world’s southernmost wind farm, which cut diesel use for both programs.

  • In 2019, New Zealand and the United States celebrated the 60th anniversary of their Antarctic partnership and launched a joint project to upgrade the facilities and infrastructure at Scott Base and McMurdo Station.

  • U.S.-New Zealand cooperation on the continent, is one of the longest and strongest partnerships in the region and reflects our shared values and interests in advancing scientific knowledge, protecting the environment, and promoting international cooperation and peace.


Speech given: U.S. Embassy – November 2023

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