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New Zealand military leaves Antarctica after successful supply operation

03-01-2012 15:18 BJT

WELLINGTON, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand Defence Force ( NZDF) announced Thursday that it had pulled all of its personnel out of the Antarctic as the southern continent prepares for the months-long night-time of its winter season.

The NZDF had more than 170 personnel had been deployed in Antarctica at various stages over the summer season from October to February to help with supplies and logistics.

The deployments included a support team for New Zealand's permanent Anctarctic settlement at Scott Base, a New Zealand Army light engineering team that carried out projects to protect the unique environment, and 70 personnel who assisted with the annual supply ship offload, said an NZDF statement.

Senior national officer Lieutenant Commander David Washer said it was a busy season overall and a very successful mission.

"Antarctica is one of New Zealand Defence Force's specialist areas of operation, utilizing the right people and equipment to cope with the challenging environment. Our input is valued because of the flexibility and dependability we offer in niche areas like this," said Washer in the statement.

The supply ship offload was one of the more challenging tasks and had to be completed in a two-week window, he said.

The New Zealand Army support personnel worked around the clock in 24-hour daylight and freezing temperatures to unload shipping containers and move cargo to the U.S. research base at McMurdo and Scott Base.

Other personnel managed distribution and storage of the supplies.

The U.S. supply ship, Green Wave, had reportedly arrived about two weeks later than scheduled after ice conditions complicated its voyage.

The NZDF also supported Antarctica New Zealand and the U.S. Antarctic Program summer season activities with Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 and B757 flights to shift supplies and personnel.

"The New Zealand Defence Force has a very good working relationship supporting Antarctica New Zealand and the U.S. Antarctic Program," said Washer.

"We have a long standing commitment and have been involved in Antarctica for over 50 years, helping New Zealand to support the Antarctic Treaty and associated peaceful scientific programs, in partnership with the international community, to safeguard this pristine environment."

Two C-130 flights were also refueled in Antarctica after air- dropping emergency equipment to the distressed Russian-flagged fishing vessel Sparta in December last year.

The B757 would complete one last flight next week, returning the last of the McMurdo summer staff to New Zealand before the winter season officially commenced.

About 20 people would spend the winter at Scott Base with no direct contact with the outside world.

Scott Base was established as New Zealand's permanent base in Antarctica in 1959, providing services and accommodation to researchers and other groups during the Antarctic summer.

Located on Ross Island in the Ross Sea, it is 1,500 km from the South Pole, and its closest neighbor is the U.S. research base, McMurdo Station, 3 km away, according to Antarctica New Zealand, the government agency responsible for New Zealand activities in Antarctica.

Editor:Zhang Jianfeng |Source: Xinhua

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