Photographic evidence of the man keeping busy

Vernon Gerard of Old Antarctic Days in New Zealand circa Nov 2015
The author in his New Zealand home: Fall 2015 (91 years old)

In November of 2015, Vernon Gerard suffered a bad fall and had to undergo a major hip surgery. Rehabilitation was painful, but he soldiered on, and is now largely recovered.

While healing from the surgery, he kept himself busy. The above photo shows him repairing his exercise bicycle.

Addendum blog post #3

(Note: Vernon Gerard, author of With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins, and owner of the Old Antarctic Days blog, visited the Philippines recently. The following blog post was written by Vernon himself. It was digitized from his handwritten notes and uploaded by his niece,  Bhex.)

Vernon Gerard of Old Antarctic Days in the Philippines circa June 2016

The author in the Philippines, June 2016
(92 years old)

Following the Moon Landing in the 1950’s-60’s, the Orion project was conceived by boffins in the USA and Germany, although people now hate the concept of atomic energy. This backlash against all things atomic came following the A-bombs which destroyed Hiroshima and 3 days later Nagasaki too and finished WWII very suddenly.

It might have been thought that the very successful moon landing would have given space flight a great boost. But just a few years later the USA destroyed an island in the Pacific using one of the new H-bombs. People revolted against anything with a whiff of plutonium as described by the N.Z. Prime Minister David Lange to a debate at the Oxford Union.

But boffins, especially in Germany, saw the potential of the Bomb to propell a space ship to the great velocity needed to reach Mars & the asteroids suitable for landings. The idea was to simply explode a small A-bomb about every 10 seconds behind your space ship to give it the required final velocity. To us it sounds crazy, but the boffins of that era (1960’s) thought it would work. You needed an effective shock absorber behind the space ship and the development would involve tests in perhaps the Nevada desert or near the S. Pole or somewhere where there was no great objection.

After a dozen tests or even less, you do come off with a real nifty device. Atmospheric air does not impede the ship because you started off in space anyway. Of course some minor rockets would be needed for direction correction and any boffin can think up all sorts of objections to the scheme. Just get thinking and do it! With all the US War II dollars and Plutonium (Pu) the US (and others) just dropped all the ideas. But sometime it will be revived.

Addendum blog post #2

(Note: Vernon Gerard, author of With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins, and owner of the Old Antarctic Days blog, visited the Philippines recently. The following blog post was written by Vernon himself. It was digitized from his handwritten notes and uploaded by his niece,  Bhex.)

Vernon Gerard of Old Antarctic Days in the Philippines circa June 2016
The author in the Philippines, June 2016 (92 years old)

Things happen when they will. A life-time ago I was at school. I’m 92 now. The casual scientific talk was then of going to the moon for we had all seen or heard of the V2 rockets in the war that had just ended. No one said it would be easy. Now, 2016, the talk is of going to the stars, especially a planet of one of the α Cent. stars. By comparison, going to planets would be easy. The mood of the people is like it was before the Moon landing, way back. Even my university proff laughed at the idea. But Von-Braun didn’t. The same mood is felt when going to the planets of α Cent. is discussed. Will it happen?

The moon landing did. We are in an optimistic age but we better soon get the hang of climate control or our luck is out. The Manhattan Project which produced at least two approximately similar types of A bombs did, this was during WWII. Then both need and optimism were high.

When did the present age of optimism start and is it still around? Lots would say it started with the steam operated machines invented in the late 17th century. But this was followed early the next century by Faraday’s discoveries and then Clerk-Maxwell’s mathematical equations formulating the system of the electromagnetic field. This was IMPORTANT, leading, as it did, to radio, television & the rest, like radar, GPS etc. etc.

Now we await something similar to embrace the details of the gravity fields & quantum mechanics. In these we can’t remotely conceive of faster than light travel (this is when we can’t even remotely reach the speed of light with a solid object).

A corollary of this is that if this can be done, why don’t we see advanced civilizations travell around our galaxy. Why don’t they contact us? Or indeed, do they? And are smart enough not to reveal themselves. An old S.F. theme, but this needs answering.

A blog post as an addendum to “With Hillary at Scott Base”

(Note: Vernon Gerard, author of With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins, and owner of the Old Antarctic Days blog, visited the Philippines recently. The following blog post was written by Vernon himself. It was digitized from his handwritten notes and uploaded by his niece,  Bhex.)

Vernon Gerard of Old Antarctic Days in the Philippines circa June 2016
The author in the Philippines, June 2016 (92 years old)

New Zealanders, a.k.a. Kiwis are usually great travellers: it’s genetic. Oh yes, whether our ancestors were Maori or just plain common ‘European Kiwis’  we have an extensive travel gene bred into our bones. So it comes as little surprise, that when I tell someone, “I have been to Antarctica 3 times,” the response is almost always, “I know someone who went there.”

Me: “When was it?”

Him: “Oh, I don’t remember,” but he was with the Americans or on the N.Z. Frigates.” They went south with Hillary as far as the pack ice in about 1956.

Me: “Did they winter-over?”

Him: “Oh no. It got too tough to stay in the rockies so they buggered off back to N.Z.”

Me: “It doesn’t count until you have actually wintered south of the circle.”

Him: “Did you?”

Me: “Oh yes, I was with Hillary and was one of the group who actually chose the site, built Scott Base.”

This usually shuts people up, because many have been on ice as far as the pack ice, but few have actually wintered south of the circle which, is what is meant when people say they have been to the S. Pole or Antarctic. For it was this expedition which took Hillary to the Pole — the first to make it back alive since Amundsen did it in 1912. Please remember Scott’s great expedition of 1912 died there — 5 brave men and lots of ponies lost their lives and froze to death just 11 miles from a food depot which they were too exhausted to reach.

Now Amundsen, from people who actually knew the man, was a tough guy, at home with his dogs who pulled his sledges. Unlike Scott, who, it seems, never mastered the Norwegian art of getting to know his dog teams but, sadly, not being above shooting his weaker dogs to feed the stronger ones. Did Hillary do this?

No, we had dogs but we relied on motor-driven tractors. For it was 1957 — a long time in fact 2 wars after 1912 and Scott’s disaster. Few know Scott had a primitive motor sledge but it was, in those early days, a failure.

We had reliable tractors, maybe not quite a masterpiece of 1956 engineering but pretty damn good, good enough. You can read about it in my book, “With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins.”

Let me put you in the 1956 picture: the present Queen was crowned in 1956 just as Hillary conquered Everest. The British who had regarded Everest as their prize after previous abortive attempts remember Mallory & Irvine, who died there.

I was in London not long after this from 1950 onwards. The mood there was not that they had lost, also, Everest but the S. Pole to one of their “Colonials” was what might be called a “disaster.” There was not a lot of the so-called British “Play the game & let the best team win” spirit. Rationing was still on, after that dreadful war against the Japanese & Nazis and only just won. Indeed the disaster could be seen all around London in the bomb sites.

So every guy who remotely knows a fellow who has been S. of the “circle” thinks he has been to the S. Pole. Like Hell he has! Just try some climbing in our Southern Alps and you will get to the bottom of this nonsense. I’ve not even climbed much at all but at least I did some skiing and earned Hillary’s comment that I did “OK.” Not well, mind you, but OK. Well enough to go in his 1957 expedition. In fact I said skiing  was a bit like riding a bicycle without wheels. An apt comment.

Hillary, who had been in the RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) in WWII did not give unearned praise. Also, I earned mine by going out to my magnetic observatory huts every 12 hours during the 1957 year when it was -70 oC or just a plain “Scott” blizzard of 25 mph wind in about -30 oC. Not much for Amundsen, say. But bad enough to freeze to death all 5 of Scott’s Pole party in 1912. Indeed my Polar Medal shows a representation of these men as it had seemed to the creators of the medal in later years.

a poetic exchange

NOTE: the following is an exchange of emails between Vernon Gerard and a close personal friend, Dr. Rodney King. This post will be edited if further installments arrive.


V. Gerard:

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! And all was light.

Then the Devil hailing Ho!
Said let Einstein be! And restored the status quo.


R. King:

But God said Wait!
Behold a changing thought abounds:
For other folks at heaven’s gate
A Multiple Universe now surrounds!


V. Gerard:

Said the devil not outdone,
String Theory is now the one
Understand it can you?
Most people have no clue.

It needs dimensions nine,
But your maths is fine.
That old devil is a bluff,
Pythagoras is just enough.


R. King:

Said God Divine, dimensions nine
Are not my thing: I need more string!
To ignore Time may be a crime….
I’m giving my Blessing to Superstring!

Book Launch

Thanks to everyone who attended!


For inquiries about the book, please contact:

Julian Bateson
Bateson Publishing, Ltd.
Phone: 04 385 9705
Email: bateson -dot- publish -at- xtra -dot- co -dot- nz

An Excerpt from “With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins”

Author’s note: Don’t forget to attend the book launch at the Upper Hutt City Library this Saturday!


The huts themselves were very cunningly designed to provide for extreme ease in being erected and at the same time to result in a soundly built, warm and comfortable building. They had been designed in Wellington by the Ministry of Works which had been considerably influenced by Australian constructional methods as used at Mawson. In all there were nine huts, there being:

Mess hut, with kitchen and radio room
Scientific hut
Generator ablutions hut with photographic darkroom and latrines
Generator-sledge workshop hut with biologists’ laboratory
Sleeping huts (two), the smaller one having a two-bed hospital
Geomagnetic variometer hut
Geomagnetic absolute hut
Seismic hut.

The huts were made of panels about four feet wide and four inches thick, covered with aluminum or heavy fabric on the outside and hardboard or asbestos board on the inside, and packed with glass fibre insulation. Each hut was prefabricated and all had been erected in Wellington to provide the construction party with experience. This proved very valuable when the real job started, as the summer construction men led by Randall Heke, Ministry of Works overseer, had already done their job once before. In addition, the trial in Wellington provided good publicity for the expedition which at that time was rather sort of finance and needed all the attention and support it could get.

The mess hut and the two generator huts each had a snow melter for making water. The mess hut melter had its own kerosene heating arrangement, but the two melters in the generator huts used the hot exhaust gases from the diesel generators for a source of heat. The exhaust gases were fed through pipes at the bottom of the melter tank before being led outside. Each snow melter had a hatch in the outside wall of the hut which could be opened to fill it with snow. The two generator huts generally depended on waste heat from the diesels for their heating, although they did have standby kerosene heater, but these were seldom used.

The mess hut, scientific hut and the two sleeping huts had quite elaborate heating systems. Each had a cold porch, in which was a thermostatically-controlled, electrically-ignited kerosene burner which blew hot fresh air around the hut through a system of pipes and vents, very different from Scott’s time.

The sleeping huts were ingeniously designed to provide each man with his own private cubicle, and yet the total floor space required to do this was very little more than would have been needed for dormitory accommodation usually expected in such places. Hillary was responsible for the idea and so the arrangement of the bunks became known as the Hillary Bunk.

Like many other good ideas this one was quite simple. The bunks were arranged in pairs, one above the other, each pair being at right angles to the hut wall. There were partitions between them, arranged so that the top bunk was open on one side and the bottom bunk was opened on the other side. There were also partitions between the next pair of bunks on each side. This meant that each man had someone sleeping either above or below him, but his own cubicle was completely private and, unless the other man was a snorer, he need not normally be aware of his existence. Bed lamps were fitted, and each cubicle had its own little double glass windows, but of course these were not much use.

The reason for having the base composed of small huts, instead of just one or two big ones, was of course the danger of fire. Fire at an Antarctic base is very easily started and can be disastrous if you have all one’s eggs in one basket, so to speak. At Scott Base, all essential services were duplicated so that no one hut was completely essential for our existence.

An invitation to the official launch of “With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins”

This is Vernon Gerard’s niece Bhex posting for her uncle.

We would like to invite everyone to drop by the launch of Dr. Gerard’s first book: With Hillary at Scott Base: A Kiwi Among the Penguins on 14 September, 2012 at the Upper Hutt City Library.


The New Zealand Antarctic Society (Inc.) has posted details on this launch, which I will reproduce here:

Book Launch – With Hillary at Scott Base (A Kiwi Among the Penguins) – Vern Gerard

Vern Gerard, now 87, one of the only 6 remaining survivors and the only physicist in the TAE-IGY group led by Sir Ed has finally wrote a book entitled – With Hillary at Scott Base (A Kiwi Among the Penguins) published by Bateson Publishing Ltd.

During the launch Antarctic photos taken by Vern (which are not included in the book) will be shown on a big screen, there will be a display of few of his old Antarctic clothing, a panel display about his book, speeches, etc. Books will be made available for purchase during the event (they’re not yet on the market), and Vern will be signing them on the night.

As space is limited, thoseÊinterested to attend the event may ring up the Upper Hutt City Library (tel 5272 171) or email: [email protected]

Upper Hutt City Library (Rotary Lounge) ,
844 Fergusson Drive
Upper Hutt


Parties interested in purchasing copies may contact the publisher:

Julian Bateson
Bateson Publishing, Ltd.
Phone: 04 385 9705
Email: bateson -dot- publish -at- xtra -dot- co -dot- nz

For any other inquiries, please feel free to contact us at vernon -dot- gerard -at- gmail -dot- com.