11 January, 2008

We mark the passing of a Good Keen Bloke.

The first man to ascend to the top of Mt. Everest, along with Tensing Norgay, Sir Edmund Hillary finally managed to climb the mountain no other man had succeeded in climbing until then. Not only that, but four years later, he was to chalk up another history-making moment when he arrived at the South Pole in 1958 as a member of the first team to achieve a land passage ahead of the British explorer Fuchs. Sir Edmund did many other things too, probably too many to mention here. A New Zealander through-and-through, he was self-effacing. I wish I had met him, and I think a lot of others did too. Now we won't get the chance, as he has died, at 9:00 this morning.

The family have agreed to the New Zealand Government's offer of a state funeral, stating that they would be honoured by the gesture. I believe that the Nepalese Government is also marking the death with a memorial service of their own. Somehow I suspect that Sir Edmund will not actually get another of his wishes, that of not being marked by any statues or markings of honour. Surely someone will want to erect a statue to him, just to mark the fact that the man did the many things that he did. However, I imagine that his main wish, that of the continuance of the Himalaya Trust, will be eagerly continued.

It is a sad day, but tinged with the sadness—at least for me—is a sense of what he has achieved, and what he refused to say about it says more to me than what he has said. He did not shout it from the mountains, aside from one comment of "Well George, we knocked the bastard off". He simply got on with it, like the quintessential Kiwi Good Keen Bloke.

I've said enough, and will let this tribute stand - one of few words, like the man himself.

Sir Edmund, we salute you.

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