View Full Version : New Information about an Old Icey Topic

22nd Nov 2018, 08:23
Last month’s edition of ‘Police News’, the magazine of the NZ Police Association, quotes two persons based at different locations near Mount Erebus on 28 November 1979 who explicitly warned the careful captain to avoid the area:

"A small but significant reunion was held in Wellington last month when three Antarctic veterans, two of them former police officers, gathered to reminisce about their time on the ice in the late 1970s. Top of mind for the trio was the 40th anniversary of the Erebus crash, due to be commemorated on November 28 next year. The circumstances surrounding New Zealand’s worst aviation disaster and the ensuing controversial enquiries about its causes are of particular interest to them because they were all there when it happened. Geophysicist Gary Lewis was the team leader at Vanda Station and Senior Constable Ted Robinson was the second in command at nearby Scott Base … What has been troubling Gary and Ted in that time, however, is what happened before the crash that claimed the lives of 257 people. “There were some of us in Antarctica who were communicating with the DC10 pilot by HF radio prior to the crash and have recollections that paint a slightly different picture,” Gary says. Indeed, it’s a picture that has apparently never been fully recorded in official accounts of the tragedy and that has been bothering these men. Ted says he did tell authorities at the time about their communications with the plane’s crew, warning of whiteout conditions and suggesting an alternative route, but it appears that wasn’t considered relevant to the post-crash inquiries. The reasons why that might have been the case have also been a source of concern for the two men, now in their late seventies. The day that Air New Zealand Flight TE901 crashed into Mt Erebus during a sightseeing tour, Gary and Ted were both on duty. They knew about the tourist flight and that it was going to be heading close to them to look at Ross Island in McMurdo Sound. “But,” says Ted, “we knew there were whiteout conditions there. I had already curtailed any activity, such as helicopters, around the island and I advised the TE901 pilot to not come anywhere near Ross Island.” When the crew was about an hour north of Ross Island, Ted suggested to pilot Jim Collins that he, instead, divert to fly over the dry valley region, near Vanda Station, which was clear. Ted recollects that the crew acknowledged his call, but he did not hear from them again. “I became quite concerned from then on,” he says. Meanwhile, 75 nautical miles away at Vanda, Gary had also communicated with the flight crew. Supporting Ted’s stance, he also suggested a change of course. “I proffered incentives by advising the pilot that our signalling mirrors had the ability to attract the attention of aircraft at 100 miles in clear weather, so there would be no difficulty in pinpointing Vanda among the rocky mountains and valleys due to our ability to project bright flashes over a long distance.” Gary says he explained that the Ross Island whiteout was local and that there was clear, sunny weather over the Wright Valley with spectacular views to be had from the air. “The pilot’s response was, ‘Sounds good, we might fly over that way’.” That contact was noted in the station radio log at 1156 on November 28 – 53 minutes before impact.”