The night the telegram arrived New Zealand was all dressed up. It was the eve of the coronation of Princess Elizabeth. Flags fluttered, Queen St and its department stores were arrayed in bunting.
The telegram was handed to the acting Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake, who read it out on radio. "The New Zealander - Hillary," he intoned, "has reached the top of Everest."
That was June 2, 1953 - four days after Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had stood on the world's highest peak. It had taken that long for the news to reach the world below. Before the end of the century Hillary's son Peter would also climb Everest and he was able to phone his father from the summit.
In 1953, Hillary's first account of his triumph appeared in the Herald on June 11. He was still on the mountain and had had already been knighted by the new Queen when he gave the interview to a Times correspondent, James Morris, who had accompanied the British expedition to its base camp.
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This is how Morris described their return from the summit: "An electric atmosphere seized their comrades as the climbers approached and excitement became ecstasy when they entered the camp. But in his interview, Sir Edmund was as laconic and diffident as if he had done a routine climb in the Southern Alps."
That was the Hillary New Zealanders would come to know and revere. Modest and matter of fact about his achievements - Everest would be followed by an expedition to the South Pole - Hillary epitomised the Kiwi ideal.
He devoted much of the rest of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal and was keener to speak about their needs than his own exploits. At the 50th anniversary of the climb in 2003 he did not attend the expedition's re-union in London, preferring to pay his respects to the mountain and the Sherpas.