The New Zealand Antarctic Medal:
For services to Antarctic exploration and heritage
Mr Brian Fitzgerald was the first New Zealander to survey Antarctica as the only official surveyor on the New Zealand Official Government Expedition to Antarctica in 1957/1958.
Mr Fitzgerald’s objective was to produce topographic mapping of as much territory as possible during this expedition. This work was essential to record and interpret the results of the geologists on this expedition and the work of the host of Antarctic scientists that were to do research in future years. There was no existing detailed topographic mapping or positioning at the time. Without dog teams they travelled by man hauling and backpacking methods in unexplored terrain. They lived in tents throughout the expedition, even when returning to Scott Base. He returned in 1958/1959 as Deputy Leader of the second New Zealand Official Geological and Survey Antarctic Expedition. Under his leadership his team produced six medium scale maps of priority features and areas of large stretches of Antarctic Ross dependency and its coastline. This provided a valuable mapping and control survey framework for future scientific research work. He developed innovative methods of mapping extensive and difficult Antarctic terrain, providing the initial impetus and framework for more than sixty years of cooperative surveying, mapping and scientific research. He has since published two books ‘Surveying the Antarctic’ (2012) and ‘Return to the Antarctic’ (2017). In his own time and without financial support, he gathered log-books and photographs from his teammates on the expeditions in order to provide an accurate portrayal of life travelling to and in the Antarctic between 1957 and 1959. Mr Fitzgerald’s books provide valuable insight into the contributions of the New Zealand Government and its field operations in the early years of the international research effort undertaken in the Antarctic.