Plaque for NZers killed while working in Antarctica

Plaque for New Zealanders killed in Antarctica: Lieutenant Tom Couzens (19/11/1959); Jeremy Sykes (19/11/1969); Terry Newport and Garth Varcoe (13/10/1992). It lies beneath the flagpole at Scott Base.

Helicopter crash

On 13 October 1992, New Zealanders Garth Varcoe and Terry Newport were killed in a helicopter crash 40 km from Scott Base. They were returning to McMurdo Station in a US Navy helicopter after rebuilding the hut at a summer research station, Cape Bird. The weather deteriorated during their journey and the helicopter struck an icy slope above a 10-m ice cliff. Varcoe, Newport and Ben Micou, a US Navy helicopter mechanic, were thrown from the helicopter and killed as it slid towards rocks below. The US Navy pilot and co-pilot lay waiting for help as rescue efforts were hampered by poor visibility.

Newport, a summer carpenter, had only worked in Antarctica since August, fulfilling what was reportedly a longstanding ambition. For Varcoe, it was his 37th visit to the ice. His first had been in 1978 as the buildings and services officer of the Antarctic Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. In 1990 Varcoe was awarded the Polar Medal in recognition of his contribution to the New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme.

Other New Zealand fatalities

Varcoe and Newport are commemorated on a plaque beneath the flagpole at Scott Base. Also remembered there are two other New Zealanders killed in Antarctica, engineer Thomas Couzens and National Film Unit cameraman Jeremy Sykes. Couzens was killed in 1959 when the Sno-Cat he was driving plunged into a 30-m deep crevice. Sykes was killed in a helicopter accident in 1969. The names of the four men have been given to geographical features in Antarctica: Varcoe Headland, Newport Bay, Couzens Bay and Couzens Saddle, and Sykes Glacier.

Further information

Book

  • David L. Harrowfield, Call of the ice: fifty years of New Zealand in Antarctica, David Bateman Ltd, Auckland, 2007

Links

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