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Press Statement 04-002

Statement by Dr. Karl A. Erb, Director of the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs, On the Anniversary of Air New Zealand Crash

November 26, 2004

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

To our friends, hosts, and colleagues in New Zealand:

Antarctica is often called the "Harsh Continent." At worst, its conditions are unimaginably severe. Even at best, they can stress both body and mind.

In the face of such unrelenting hardship, what keeps those who work there safe and secure--and adds immeasurably to their peace of mind--are the bonds between people and among nations in the face of common adversity. Perhaps nowhere else in the Antarctic are those bonds forged so closely as between the Americans at McMurdo Station and their Kiwi neighbors "over the hill" at Scott Base.

Twenty-five years ago this month, on November 28, an Air New Zealand DC-10 crashed on nearby Mount Erebus. None of the 257 passengers and crew aboard survived the crash.

The tragedy resonates through the years for the families of the passengers and crew, for all those on Ross Island who responded to that terrible event, and even for the New Zealander who has no personal connection.

We wish them all some measure of peace from the passage of time.

The thoughts of the men and women of the U.S. Antarctic Program are with all who gather to commemorate this tragedy and all who reflect alone on its aftermath. Both Americans and New Zealanders, who still work in Antarctica, have very personal memories of those heart-wrenching days and weeks in 1979.

I am equally sure that many at McMurdo Station on November 28 will pause to look over at Mount Erebus, with a plume of volcanic steam rising skyward from its peak, and reflect on the loss.

Like you and like them, we have not forgotten. My thoughts are with you.


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