AN OPEN LETTER FROM
THE NEW ZEALAND ANTARCTIC VETERANS ASSOCIATION
GOVERNMENT OF NEW ZEALAND
WE ARE THOSE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN who carried out Special Service on behalf of the New Zealand Government and the Nation of New Zealand on the frozen wastes at the bottom of the world. We followed in the footsteps of Ross, Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Byrd, Hillary and all the other Antarctic hero's of the nineteenth and twentieth century's and faced many of the exact same dangers, risks and hardships every single day of our Tour of Duty on the frozen continent.
WE SAILED SOUTH of 60% South into the wildest, most dangerous seas in the world, often in vessels that were less than suited to the tasks we put them through. Originally, New Zealand frigates HMNZS Pukaki and HMNZS Rotoiti acted as weather ships south of 60% South. On every voyage huge seas swept over the ships fore'castle, causing ice build up on the upper deck superstructure and fittings. This was required to be chipped off at considerable risk by crew members with chipping hammers and axes. Later New Zealand support for Operation Deep Freeze involved the use of two refuelling ships, HMNZS Endeavour I and HMNZS Endeavour II. These same ships carried aviation fuel for the US Navy as well as stores for Scott Base. Fumes from the AVGAS (Aviation Fuel), were ever present and were even more dangerous on the return trip from the Ice when the tanks were empty, but the fumes were still ever present in the gas filled tanks.
WE FLEW AIRCRAFT into the continent of Antarctica in all adverse and extreme weather conditions including "whiteouts," which is that atmospheric effect which results in a dangerous loss of depth perception in the diffuse, shadow-less illumination, amongst that mono-coloured white surface which is Antarctica. Our aircrews assisted with many of the scientific programmes for which New Zealand is justly proud. Transporting New Zealand scientists, military personnel, stores and equipment to and from the frozen continent.
WE BUILT MORE than 20 scientific bases, from NZARP Scott Base located on Ross Island at Grid reference: 77S51 166E46, through to Bratina Island Refuge located at Brown Peninsula, Bratina Island, at Grid reference: 78S01 165E32. We undertook scientific projects for NZARP, DSIR and New Zealand Universities. As well we surveyed and mapped the Ross Dependency. These projects and missions were carried out in the most extreme environment on earth and in many cases we "wintered-over" with all of the psychological challenges such loneliness and isolation has to offer.
WE WORKED AS AIRCRAFT-LOADERS on the dangerous Annual Ice, operating on both the "Ice" and "Snow" runways, in the very worst of weathers and conditions, including working amongst ice holes and crevasse's during the break-up of the annual ice; leaving our posts, only after all aircraft were down safely and unloaded. During the period that we were attached to VXE6 Squadron, US Navy Air-Devrons, we assisted loading and unloading a variety of aircraft, while the Squadron logged more than two hundred thousand flight hours in direct support of United States and New Zealand scientific interests in the Antarctic. VXE6 squadron transported more than 195 thousand passengers, delivered over 240 million pounds of dry cargo and nearly 10 million gallons of fuel to numerous sites throughout the continent. Since the disestablishment of VXE6 Squadron we have continued to work under the most difficult and adverse environmental conditions. The 1998-99 season's LC-130 airlift schedule by the US Navy and the New York Air National Guard, which took over Antarctic LC-130 flying, was the busiest on record: around 500 missions were flown; 320 to the South Pole alone. In addition to passengers and normal supplies for the South Pole station, the aircraft carried materials for construction of a new station at The South Pole.
WE SEARCHED FOR and recovered the 257 bodies, and the body parts of the flight crew and passengers of the ill-fated Air New Zealand DC10, Flight TE 901, which was lost during a "whiteout" on the lower slopes of Mount Erebus on the 28 November 1979. We bagged, tagged and returned these bodies to New Zealand over a period of several weeks. The hostile terrain in that polar wilderness provided every difficulty, which can be imagined. Bodies and body parts were buried in snow, and the unpredictable winds of Antarctica were responsible for many delays and frustrations. All of the work was done in hazardous, frozen conditions, on sloping terrain, covered with soft snow.
WE HAVE ALSO RECOVERED AND PACKED INTO BODY BAGS and body boxes, the frozen and dead remains of 58 of our Comrades who perished while serving on the frozen wastes that are the Antarctic continent. They died in aircraft and helicopter crashes, falling through the ice, crevasse accidents, hypothermia, drownings, suicides, heavy machinery accidents, off-loading ships. Included in this figure are four New Zealanders. They are:
Lt Tom Couzens RNZAC
19 November 1959 Crevasse accident
Mr Jeremy Sykes NZ Film Director NZARP
19 November 1969 VXE6 Sqn Helo crash Mt McLennan
Mr Garth Vercoe Kiwi DSIR TSO NZARP
31 October 1992 VXE6 Helo crash Cape Royds
Mr Terry Newport Kiwi DSIR GFE NZARP
31 October 1992 VXE6 Helo crash Cape Royds
WE ARE NEW ZEALANDS ANTARCTIC VETERANS. Those brave men and women who served our country on the frozen wastes at the bottom of the world for the benefit of all mankind.
The criteria from the award of the New Zealand Special Service Medal reads as follows:
"The New Zealand Special Service Medal will recognise service to New Zealand in very difficult, adverse, extreme, or hazardous circumstances. Such service often involves risk (whether physical, environmental, or psychological) similar to operational service, without fitting the criteria of operational service."
IT IS THE CONTENTION of the New Zealand Antarctic Veterans Association that as underlined above, the stated criteria for the award of the New Zealand Special Service Medal fits "hand in glove" with service undertaken by New Zealanders in Antarctica. That is, "service similar to operational service, without fitting the criteria of operational service." The New Zealand Government established these criteria for the award of the New Zealand Special Service Medal, and the New Zealand Antarctic Veterans Association respectfully reminds our Government of that decree.
THE NEW ZEALAND ANTARCTIC VETERANS ASSOCIATION requests medalic recognition of our Special Service to the nation and the people of New Zealand, with the award of the New Zealand Special Service Medal with an appropriate clasp, or ribbon colour denoting service in Antarctica.
For your consideration,
Mike Subritzky John Smith (National President) (RNZN Rep) Warren Berkett Eddie Goldsmith (National Vice President) (NZ Army Rep) (National Secretary) (RNZAF Rep)