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Edmund Hillary conquers Everest

Sir Edmund Hillary
Sir Edmund Hillary circa 1953, Gordon-Bell, Ophelia (1915–1975). Gift of the New Zealand Dairy Produce Marketing Commission, 1955. Te Papa

In 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary (1919–2008) and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first people to conquer Mt Everest, the world's highest peak. 'We knocked the bastard off,' Hillary famously said. This bronze bust commemorates the feat.

The expedition was in fact British, but New Zealanders were immensely proud of Hillary. Acting Prime Minister Keith Holyoake enthused: 'Hillary has indeed mounted to the top of the world – and he has put the British race and New Zealand there with him.'

The conquest coincided with Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, inspiring Holyoake to declare it 'a most fitting gift'. Hillary's mother was rather more modest: 'To think of our Edmund up there.'

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.