Topic: Sgt D Marama's experience of the Antartic

Topic type:

This article appeared in the 61st Hauraki News (November 2011)

This article looking wrong? Click for archived version here.

6th Hauraki Insignia

Kia Orana Tatou katoatoa

After two weeks of PDT commencing 12 September 2010 in Christchurch involving a week of Antarctic Awareness week with Antarctic New Zealand and a week of intensive fire fighting training at the New Zealand Fire Service Woolston Alpine Training Facility in Christchurch, we finally deployed to Antarctica on 30 September 2010.

Flying down to Antarctic was an incredible feeling travelling in a giant American C17 Globe master and also especially I had a front row seat that you could literally call it business class . The Americans around me (130 plus of them) to our NZ contingent of 30 wondered how I manage to get such a seat. I had the opportunity to visit up in the cockpit and also the view from the window next to me was incredible as we eventually started to enter the Antarctic region, envious of all the other passengers as we flew across Antarctic waters. After Landing on the Pegasus Ice Runway on the McMurdo Sound and stepping off the C17 at minus 44 degrees we were greeted by brilliant clear blue sunny sky, stunning scenery with Mt Erebus in full glory in the background. Picked up by the Winter Over crew (those pers who kept Scott Base running during the winter months until the summer season. They have spent 13months at Scott Base before departing on 7 October 2010) in a convoy of 3 hagglands and after a 40 minute drive we eventually arrive to our new home for the next 5 months, Scott Base.

On arrival at Scott Base and after an afternoon tea break we were taken on an introductory tour of Scott Base. The base is well compact and laid out and all linked together by way of link ways that means no one has to go out of the building to their work place unless you are one of the plant operators mainly outside work. The base includes accommodation for 86. There are 36 summer season base staff including the 8 NZDF personnel (1 x SNO Navy , 1 x Cargo Handler Sgt Air Force, 2 x Army Plant Operators ( 1x L/Cpl & 1 x Pte) and 4 x Comms Operators ( 1x Snr Comms Op Sgt Army, 1 x L/Cpl Army, 1 x LAC Air Force and 1 X LWT Navy).

Within 2 days after arriving at Scott Base we set out for our first taste of what is like to live out in the field (Antarctic Field Training / survival training) and not before the flag ceremony a tradition dating back to Sir Edmund Hillary around 1957 when literally the changing of the guard from the winter over staff to the summer season staff, is the tradition of lowering the winter flag by the youngest incoming summer staff, handing over the winter flag to the winter over base manager and raising the new summer flag.

After the flag ceremony we set off to our Antarctic field training exercise area. Conditions was around minus 30 degrees wind speed of approximately 20-25 knots with blowing snow not a good time to start our Antarctic Field Training. We were shown how to put up our polar tents, make a make shift kitchen by way of cutting ice blocks and making a 1.5meter high semicircular wall that was good but when the wind change directions we had to move the wall around as that was our protection against the wind while a couple members in our team is doing the cooking the others helping to pitch 3 types of polar tents up for our team. Although the Extreme Cold weather gear we had on was excellent and withstood the cold temperature at the time it was difficult to work in due the bulk of the clothing on and the thick gloves on. I would have liked the experience to be longer like 5 days out in the field, and then we could have experienced building emergency shelters i.e snow trench, snow mound, snow caves or even an igloo and over night in them.

Life here at Scott Base has settled in and our work routine is well underway. There are number of science events throughout the summer season that Scott Base will be supporting and as far as communications is concern we are part of that support. We are the first point of contact from events in the field, calls in and out from New Zealand, McMurdo Station etc.

I have had the opportunity to tour McMurdo Station Communication Room larger than our Scott Base communication room, also their Weather Operations and Air Traffic Control operations, as in some parts we at Scott Base Comms will be communicating with McMurdo, macops, mac weather and Air Traffic control as the summer season progresses. We kiwis can visit McMurdo anytime however the Americans can only visit Scott Base by invitation only or on Thursday Nights where we host the Americans, American Night at Scott Base bar. Compare to Scott Base, McMurdo Station is huge accommodating up to 1400 people. I think Scott Base is situated in the best place compare to McMurdo as we have a grandstand view of Mt Erebus, Mt Terror and Mt Terror Nova at our back door, with the pressure ridges to our front including views of White Island, Black Island, and Mt Discovery.

So far I have had the opportunity on my days off to visit the historic huts of Robert Falcon Scott at Cape Evans a huge Hut compare to Ernest Shackletons Hut at Cape Royds. Amongst the glaciers, and huge icebergs stuck in the sea ice. Apparently what we see on top is only 10% and we can only imagine the other 90% below. Some of these icebergs are at least 10 stories high by hundreds of metres in length and breath As you all might be aware of is that Scott Base and McMurdo is situated next to each other and separated by approximately 4km over the hill and both base is situated on Ross Island surrounded by the Permanent Ross Ice Shelf /McMurdo Ice Shelf / McMurdo Sound / Ross Sea.

The scenery around here is breath taking especially when I flew over by helicopter towards Mt Erebus and over to a place call Cape Bird a 40 minute flight one way. I am taking every opportunity to do as much and see as much as I can while on deployment. Whenever I am off shift or days off I am always off on hike / walk to such places called Crater Hill, Observation Hill a 200-300 meter steep hill that Scott’s men climbed everyday waiting for him to return on his fateful journey to the South Pole, Pressure ridge that is right out in front of Scott Base the place where the permanent Ross Ice shelf clashes with the sea Ice causing the frozen waves formation that clashes together forcing it upwards, an incredible sight that changes every day, it might seems strange but there is a lot to do down here. Since I have been here the temperature has ranged from minus 44 degrees to at the time of writing this update to minus 8 degrees and that’s bikini weather down here. On October 23 2010 we celebrated the last sunset for the year by way of a beach party theme. We didn’t see the sun go down for the last time due to it being cloudy that night, but I have been on night watch and our communication room has a perfect view to see this fascinating event, and I have seen the sun going down at 0230 hrs and just as it was going down behind Black Island with almost like a half moon still showing it started to rise up again and by 0300hrs it was like it was the midday sun, incredible sight, seeing the sun that will never set until late February. Apparently the sun will sit from the 1200hr position in the sky from December. It is weird with 24hr daylight down here but use to it now.

Kia Kaha

Sgt D Marama

From Scott Base, Antarctica


Final image:  NZDF Staff left to Right L/cpl

  • Brian Good Senior Plant Operator, Lt Cmdr David Washer SNO/Base
  • Services Supervisor Navy, (back LWT Micheal Jamieson Navy Comms Ops,
  • L/cpl Mark Gilliver Army Comms Ops) Sgt D Marama Senior Comms Ops,
  • Army, Sgt Gideon Wych Cargo Handler Air Force, LAC Malina Opo Comms
  • Ops Air Force and Pte Conrad Smith Plant Operator Army



This page archived at Perma CC in September of 2016;

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion


Sgt D Marama's experience of the Antartic