Read an extract of Erebus published in the NZ Herald


Former New Zealand Antarctic Research Programme field operations officer Colin Monteath recalls his recovery work after the devastating Mt Erebus crash.

On 28 November 1979 at 12.50pm, an Air New Zealand DC-10 sightseeing aircraft (ZK-NZP), flight TE901, crashed on Ross Island just above the ice cliffs of Lewis Bay. All 257 aboard, 237 passengers and 20 crew, died instantly. The fourteenth such flight, TE901 had taken off from Auckland at 8.30am. The route planned was via the Auckland Islands, Balleny Islands, Ross Sea, McMurdo Sound and, on the return leg, over Campbell Island to land in Christchurch some 11 hours later.

The aircraft did not hit Erebus. Flying at 260 knots (480 kilometres) an hour, it crashed at 447 metres altitude on a gentle snow slope at the base of Ross Island. Reports at the time indelibly linked the crash to the name Erebus, and media statements left the impression that the aircraft slammed into the steep icy wall of a volcano. So long after the tragedy, it is important to correct the misconceptions that have persisted over the years.

I had just returned to New Zealand after my annual five-week start-of-season work at Scott Base. On that dreadful night of 28 November, my neighbour phoned to tell me the plane had run out of fuel and must be down. I knew I would be on my way back to Ross Island in the morning.

Read the abridged abstract published on the NZ Herald website here.