17 December 2013
NZ Defence Force personnel preparing for Christmas on the ice are (from left) LCPL Aston Flavell-Taiapa (Auckland), SPR Ben Armstrong (Timaru), LAC Matt Keen (Taupo), LTCDR Barry Holmes (Auckland), FSGT Mike Willemse (Wellington), ACPL Adam Breetvelt (Auckland), SGT Nicola Lang (Dunedin), LCPL Stacey Jones (Hastings).
Ham, turkey and the prospect of fresh seafood are making mouths water in Antarctica where nine New Zealand Defence Force personnel are preparing for a white Christmas.
Lance Corporal (LCPL) Stacey Jones deployed to Antarctica in October and is working in a Communications role at Scott Base, where she reports the Christmas spirit is alive and well.
“We have two Christmas trees in the dining room and we are planning a pre-Christmas lunch on December 24 when everyone will open their Secret Santa presents and even sit on Santa’s knee,” she said.
Scott Base is currently home for eight members of the NZ Defence Force including one Navy, three Army and four Air Force personnel, while a ninth member of the team is stationed with the maintenance crew at the nearby American base, McMurdo.
“We love it,” LCPL Jones said. “All of us have seen some pretty amazing stuff and done lots of exciting things from sleeping in a tent on the ice to visiting historic huts.”
As part of the Antarctica New Zealand support team, the Defence Force personnel are involved in a range of duties as cargo handlers, communications and maintenance through to fire-fighters and even bar staff for the Scott Base ‘local’ known as the Tatty Flag.
LCPL Jones, who is an Army dental assistant based in Linton, has already seen penguins, seals and killer whales, but she is also looking forward to the annual Polar Plunge and Ice Stock—a special New Year concert at McMurdo where three NZ Defence Force personnel will take their place in a band.
Lieutenant Commander (LT CDR) Barry Holmes is the senior national officer with the NZ Defence Force personnel and is preparing for his second Christmas on the ice.
“Last year the ‘freshies’ didn’t arrive in time for Christmas and we still ate like kings. This year the freshies are definitely arriving so one thing is for sure—we will be waddling by the end of Christmas day,” he said.
“Late on Christmas Eve some of the staff will go out on an adventure trip to a scenic location about one-and-a-half hours from base called ‘A Room With a View’ where they will camp overnight, have a BBQ, toast marshmallows and celebrate the arrival of Christmas Day with no one else around. It will be very peaceful.”
Despite the festivities, there remains plenty of work assisting the many scientists and project workers in Antarctica. A large contingent of drivers and cargo movers will be arriving in the last week of January and the first week of February to support the unloading of scheduled cargo ships.
“They will be working in two shifts, 24 hours a day for the two weeks while the ship is here,” LCPL Jones said.
The NZ Defence Force personnel are expected to return to New Zealand at the end of February.
For more information, contact the Defence Communications Group on 021 487 980.