Postcard from Antarctica
NZDF Engineers in Antarctica, January 2009
By LT CDR Ross Hickey
Greetings from the bottom of the world: Scott Base, Antarctica. The NZDF has been involved in supporting scientific research and discovery in Antarctica for over 50 years.
We currently have eight NZDF personnel staying at Scott base with 30 other base staff for the four month summer season. We are responsible for providing cargo handlers, plant operators, and base communications operators. Over the summer period the NZDF also sends down cargo riggers, a light engineering team, a ship off-load team and the 139th USAF exchange for a short period of time. We also have visits from the C-130, P3 and the NZDF survival school.
Over the past four months we have seen a massive change in the weather. When we first arrived it was a mind-numbing -45ºc (with wind chill) compared to the Christmas week when we were up to +2 ºc. Every person has to maintain a relatively high workload during the deployment, but this doesn’t prevent us getting out and seeing some of this beautiful frozen continent.
On our day off each week there’s usually a trip to some part of Ross Island, to Scott’s or Shackleton’s Huts, the ice caves, out to the ski field, or to other local landmarks.
We also try to maintain a close relationship with the USAF based in McMurdo Station which is located 3km away - “over the hill”. We participated in the Armistice Day ceremony and have been invited over for Thanksgiving, social nights and sports events. The Scott base rugby club won the game against the McMurdo Mt Terra club 8-0 keeping the winning streak alive for 50 years.
We have had a few visitors from other bases from around Antarctica like the Italian’s from Mario Zuchelli Station and Russians from a hagglund expedition to the South Pole, as well as cruise ships coming down into the Ross Sea.
Over Christmas we had an excellent meal prepared by our chefs and Santa came to give us our presents, as well as parcels from the RSA which reminded us of some of the small things we are missing from home.
Perhaps due to our size and location, the NZDF presence in Antarctica is sometimes overlooked but it still offers invaluable resource to the Antarctic programme and international relations.
Return to the Feature Summary