First Crossings by Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald

Random House - $45

There aren't many challenges that haven't been accomplished, which is why Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame was right in referring to space as the final frontier, and it's prompted some to chase more extreme and dangerous pursuits.

In the case of Kevin Biggar and Jamie Fitzgerald, they have reinvented adventuring by going back in time.


Some of New Zealand's first adventurers were not only, well, adventurous, but also a little crazy. They put their lives on the line to see what was around the next corner, whether they could scale a mountain first or simply overcome personal boundaries. Some did it in the pursuit of fame and fortune but for others it was a sort of calling they couldn't ignore and helped foster this country's identity.

Biggar and Fitzgerald have illustrated just how tough some of these adventures were by taking the same routes, using the same equipment and wearing the same clothes as their forerunners.

First Crossing: Historic NZ Adventures Brought to Life is the offshoot of their popular television series. Like the TV shows, it's presented in a colloquial way, mainly through Biggar's eyes but also captures enough of the history to be informative. Of the 10 stories, five are from the first TV series and five from the second.

Among them, they follow a young Sir Edmund Hillary's attempt to climb Tapuae-o-Uenuku in 1944 (although Hillary did it solo and in winter), dive around the dangerous Three Kings Islands in the same way Kelly Tarlton did in the pursuit of treasure between 1965 and 1981 and recreate Henry Whitcombe and Jakob Lauper's epic first crossing of the Southern Alps in 1863.

Biggar and Fitzgerald, who are adventurers in their own right having become the first Kiwis to walk the 1200km journey to the South Pole unaided and set a new world record for rowing across the Atlantic, try to follow the script so closely they even dined on a rat.

This is an easy read and one that is also a little inspiring. Now where are those crampons?