New Zealand Soldiers Take On Antarctic Summer Job

14 January 2013

NZ Army soldiers brave freezing temperatures to work on the construction of a Bailey bridge at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

NZ Army soldiers brave freezing temperatures to work on the construction of a Bailey bridge at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Kiwis generally take advantage of the summer weather to get work done outside, and it is no exception in Antarctica despite freezing temperatures and snow flurries.

A New Zealand Army Light Engineering Team (LET) is carrying out a number of construction, deconstruction and repair tasks around US base McMurdo Station to ensure facilities and equipment can continue to withstand the harsh winters.

The NZ Defence Force has been involved in Antarctica for over 50 years, supporting Antarctica New Zealand and the US Antarctic Programme, helping New Zealand play its part in the international effort to safeguard this pristine environment. 

LET Troop Commander, Lieutenant Daniel Silvester, said, "We have a strong team who are working together well and getting through the range of scheduled tasks.

"It’s a great opportunity for the team to work in such a unique environment. McMurdo Station is huge and has around 900 personnel. It’s like working in a big mining town.

"The Americans have been really helpful setting up the projects and have given us good support and direction."

Denver based Lockhead Martin Project Engineer Senior Joseph Orton, who is project managing the LET tasks adds, "I'm impressed by the range of skills the Light Engineering Team have. The New Zealand Army has a lot of experience with this type of work and the soldiers have an excellent work ethic and just get on with the job.

"We use Kiwis to do this kind of work as part of a trade off between our two countries with New Zealand providing skilled labour and the US providing logistics and flights."

The Light Engineering Team has been kept busy building a Bailey bridge, painting the chapel, and conducting welding work on a fuel pipeline. The 100 foot Bailey bridge took two and a half days to construct and was eased out over the sea ice to a specially built ice pier. The pier will be used during next month's annual supply ship offload, where Defence personnel will work round the clock in 24 hour daylight and freezing temperatures to unload shipping containers and move cargo to McMurdo Station and Scott Base.

The Light Engineering Team, made up of 17 personnel from 1 (NZ) Brigade - 2 Engineer Regiment and Combat Service Support units, will return to New Zealand in late February.

Around 200 Defence Force personnel will support the mission at various stages this season and the mission will peak in February with the deployment of the Ship Offload and Driver Support Teams. Throughout the season the tri-Service Scott Base Support Team provide communications, plant operations, cargo handling and operations scheduling support.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force provides a number of C-130 and B757 flights moving supplies and personnel, an Airdrop Rigging Team assists with a C-17 training drop, a small number of personnel support the US Air National Guard with maintenance tasks, and the Harewood Terminal Team in Christchurch are kept busy throughout the season. The Air Force also provides emergency recovery and search and rescue standby for US aircraft operations.


For more information please contact the Defence Communications Group media phone on 021 487 980.

This page was last reviewed on 4 February 2013.