The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has begun its annual mission to take scientists and support staff to Antarctica, to help advance research in the world’s harshest continent.
Yesterday a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Boeing 757 flew 81 scientific and support personnel and about three tonnes of baggage and equipment that are needed to support the New Zealand and United States Antarctic research programmes.
It was the NZDF’s first strategic airlift support flight to the continent for the 2016-17 summer season.
Lieutenant Commander Ross Hickey, the NZDF’s Senior National Officer on the continent, said two more RNZAF Boeing flights are scheduled before the end of October to take another 100 people to Scott Base and McMurdo Station.
“For the past 51 years the NZDF has been contributing to the lifeline of support for New Zealand and American scientists working in Antarctica,” Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said.
“Every year, our aircraft support the Antarctic research programmes by bringing about 330 scientists and other personnel and almost 40 tonnes of equipment needed to carry out vital research on the continent,” MAJGEN Gall said.
Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Beggs said the significant contribution of the NZDF demonstrated the collaborative nature of Antarctic research and logistics.
“NZDF support is an integral part of New Zealand’s strategic leadership both on the Antarctic continent and in the Southern Ocean and we are grateful for the level of professionalism under which these personnel operate,” Mr Beggs said.
The NZDF also provides search and rescue support, air transport, terminal operations at Harewood Terminal in Christchurch and McMurdo, and support for the unloading of the annual container ship.
Up to 220 NZDF staff – including air crew and ground support, passenger and cargo facilitation, logistics, fuel specialists, Army engineers and heavy plant operators, cargo handlers and communications specialists – are deployed during the summer to support the Scott Base and McMurdo stations.
The 2016-17 research season marks the 60th anniversary of New Zealand’s operational presence in Antarctica and the construction of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut. .