Another successful summer season of the New Zealand Defence Force’s operation in Antarctica is nearing its end, with the remainder of the contingent returning to New Zealand last night.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 returned to Christchurch yesterday with the last 22 personnel who have been based in Antarctica for two months.
Operation Antarctica is a joint effort between the Navy, Army, Air Force and with up to 220 personnel deploying during the October-February summer season.
This year 60 Army soldiers and logistics specialists assisted with unloading the annual container ship which provides McMurdo Station and Scott Base with a year’s supply of science equipment, food, and construction materials, needed to sustain researchers in one of the world’s most inhospitable laboratories.
“Operation Antarctica is one of our major missions, since 1965 the NZDF has been supporting New Zealand and American scientists as they carry out important research on the ice,” said Deputy Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy.
“We are proud that our partnership with Antarctica New Zealand is contributing to the continued advancement of their work,” said Air Commodore McEvoy.
The Senior National Officer of Operation Antarctica Major Alistair McColl said Antarctica is one of NZDF’s specialist areas of operation. We use highly trained people and equipment to cope with the challenging environment. Our input is valued because of the flexibility and reliability we offer in niche areas like this.”
The NZDF provides search and rescue support, air transport, logistics staff, fuel specialists, engineers, cargo handlers, drivers and communications specialists to Scott Base and McMurdo Station. NZDF also supports terminal operations at Harewood Terminal in Christchurch.
An RNZAF Boeing 757 will complete one last flight in early April before the ‘winter’ season officially starts.
New Zealand has important sovereignty, security, economic, environmental, scientific and diplomatic interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, particularly the Ross Sea region. Overall Antarctic national programme operations have a direct return of around $162 million annually to the New Zealand economy. The maintenance of peace and stability in the Antarctic Treaty area through the Antarctic Treaty System is of significant benefit to New Zealand’s own security.
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