4 March 2019
Two Taranaki brothers have been lucky enough to tackle together the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) biggest operation over summer, its challenging work at Antarctica.
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Corporal Sam Fahy is an aviation technician with No. 40 Squadron at Base Auckland and his brother, New Zealand Army Corporal Matt Fahy is based at Christchurch’s Burnham Army Camp as an electrical fitter.
They were among about 220 NZDF personnel from all three Services who made significant contributions helping deliver supplies during the busy summer season in Antarctica. Scott Base, New Zealand’s permanent research support station on the continent, accommodates about 85 scientists and support staff, while McMurdo Station is the hub of United States scientific activity in Antarctica and home to more than 900 scientists and support people during the summer.
The brothers from New Plymouth stayed at McMurdo Station during the deployment and, even though they were kept busy with different roles, they found the time to catch up occasionally.
“Mum thought it was pretty cool, because there are four kids in our family and she thought having half of them on the ice, on a continent that hardly anyone goes to, was pretty awesome,” Corporal Matt Fahy said.
He was working as a driver at the station, helping to transport about 3000 tonnes of cargo to McMurdo and Scott Base, which was brought in by American cargo ship Ocean Giant.
His brother was based about 20 minutes’ drive away from the station at the Williamsfield runway, working as a maintainer with the New York Air National Guard on Lockheed LC-130 ski planes.
“We didn’t get much of a chance to catch up much – Sam was always down on the flight line and I was driving around McMurdo. But we were both working 12-hour nightshifts, so sometimes we caught up over dinner,” Corporal Matt Fahy said.
“Antarctica was an epic experience,” he said. “Hardly anyone goes down there and it’s just so secluded – it was awesome having the opportunity to go down.”
The extreme cold weather meant the drivers had to be creative to keep the oil warm in the trucks. Whenever the vehicles were not being used they were plugged in to a power supply, which enabled the heater elements in the engine to operate.
“It’s like an electric blanket for the engines.”
Meanwhile, at the runway, his brother got to use a “large hairdryer” to warm up the aircraft’s propellers and engine – as well as himself.
“In these conditions the planes can’t really start properly if it’s too cold,” Corporal Sam Fahy said. “They have heater carts that you hook up to the engine with hoses – basically you blast hot air in there, like a big hairdryer, and you can warm your hands up then too.”
Even with cold weather gloves on, the icy conditions made work difficult, he said.
“You need to have a break and warm your hands up or you can’t even use them. Once you’ve got all your cold weather gear on it’s not too bad though, but the ground can freeze and you need to watch out for slips and trips.”
The brothers had never deployed together before and it was great seeing his sibling around McMurdo, Corporal Sam Fahy said.
“There’s no rivalry between us – he likes the Air Force.”