Kiwis and Aussies unload supplies in Antarctica

A team of New Zealand Defence Force and Australian Defence Force personnel are working around the clock to unload a year’s worth of supplies for scientists in Antarctica.

CAPTION: A shipping container with up to 28 tonnes of supplies is hoisted on to a truck driven by a New Zealand Defence Force driver. NZDF photo.

Braving temperatures that sometimes drop to minus 30 degrees, 22 NZDF drivers and four Aussies are behind the wheels of five-tonne, six-wheel-drive M-818 military trucks, delivering 20-foot to 40-foot containers filled with supplies for scientists at McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

In charge of the NZDF’s driving team is Sergeant Kat Wise, who also went to the continent as a driver in 2008.

Sergeant Wise said the team had been working 12-hour shifts and moving up to six containers each a day as they unload about 3000 tonnes of supplies brought last week by cargo ship MV Ocean Giant.

“The roads here are wide and the speed limit is 15 kilometres an hour, so driving on ice with a 40-foot container is manageable,” she said.

“But it can still be challenging because weather conditions can change dramatically during the day.”

NZDF Senior National Officer in Antarctica Lieutenant Commander Ross Hickey said MV Ocean Giant’s cargo included food for the next 12 months, construction material, scientific equipment, vehicles, general supplies and maintenance equipment.

“Twenty-three NZDF movement operators were working with personnel from the United States Navy’s Cargo Handling Battalion One to unload the ship’s cargo and reload it with waste and items for repair from the previous 12 months,” Lieutenant Commander Hickey said.

“Two drivers and two terminal operators from the Australian Defence Force are also in Antarctica, operating as part of the NZDF contingent.”

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall said Antarctica had been one of the NZDF’s bigger missions for more than 50 years, with up to 200 personnel deployed during the summer season.

“Our aircraft fly scientists and tonnes of supplies to the continent,” Major General Gall said.

“Our personnel, with their specialist skills, are helping advance Antarctic research in a tangible way.”

NZDF personnel who have gone to Antarctica in the summer season include air crew, refuelling operators, Army engineers, heavy plant operators, communications specialists and staff providing ground support and passenger and cargo handling.

Scott Base, New Zealand’s permanent research support station on the continent, is home to about 85 scientists and support staff.

McMurdo is the hub of United States scientific activity in Antarctica and supports the US station located at the South Pole. It accommodates more than 1000 scientists and support people during the summer season.

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Brian Hartigan

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