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The NZ Defence Force 2011/2012 season in Antarctica has come to a successful conclusion with the remaining NZ Defence Force personnel leaving Antarctica earlier this week.
More than 170 NZ Defence Force personnel deployed at various stages throughout the October - February summer season. This included a Scott Base support team, a New Zealand Army light engineering team which carried out a number of projects to safeguard the unique environment, and 70 personnel who assisted with the recent annual supply ship offload.
Senior National Officer Lieutenant Commander David Washer says overall it was a busy season and another very successful mission for NZ Defence Force in Antarctica.
“Antarctica is one of NZ Defence Force’s specialist areas of operation, utilising the right people and equipment to cope with the challenging environment. Our input is valued because of the flexibility and dependability we offer in niche areas like this.”
The supply ship offload is one of the more challenging tasks undertaken. The New Zealand Army support personnel have a small window of under two weeks to complete the task. They work round the clock in 24 hour daylight and freezing temperatures to unload shipping containers and move cargo to McMurdo and Scott Bases. Teams of personnel drawn from all three Services also work 24/7 to manage distribution and storage of the supplies.
The NZ Defence Force also supports Antarctica New Zealand and US Antarctic Programme summer season activities with a number of Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 and B757 flights to shift supplies and personnel.
“The NZ Defence Force has a very good working relationship supporting Antarctica NZ and the US Antarctic Programme. We have a long standing commitment and have been involved in Antarctica for over 50 years, helping New Zealand to support the Antarctic Treaty and associated peaceful scientific programmes, in partnership with the international community, to safeguard this pristine environment,” said LTCDR Washer.
Two C-130 flights also received refuel support in Antarctica after air-dropping emergency equipment to the distressed fishing vessel Sparta in December 2011.
“Operating to this remote, extreme environment is professionally challenging work for No. 40 Squadron aircrew and maintenance teams,” he says.
The B757 will complete one last flight next week, returning the last of the McMurdo summer staff to New Zealand before the ‘winter’ season officially commences.