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From Southland to the South Pole

By   /  October 12, 2017  /  Comments Off on From Southland to the South Pole

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MIL OSI

Source: Antarctica New Zealand

Headline: From Southland to the South Pole

Antarctica New Zealand general manager for Antarctic operations Simon Trotter is in charge of the logistics of bringing up to 400 scientists and crew to Scott Base every summer. He says having grown up in Fiordland ignited a lifelong passion for conservation that’s brought him to work in one of the world’s most extreme environments.

Mr Trotter is no stranger to outdoor extremes. He spent his middle and high school years in Te Anau, and stayed in town after graduating to survey the alpine sections for what would become the Kepler Track in the 1980s. In the 1990s he worked for two Outward Bound projects in South Africa during its first democratic elections.

After returning to New Zealand to study at Lincoln University, he took on a summer job working as a crew member on a fuel safety programme for Antarctica New Zealand. He said the experience got him hooked and he hasn’t looked back since.

“That was the beginning of the journey, really. I came back to New Zealand after that and I just sought out ongoing work with Antarctica New Zealand.”

In his current role he’s responsible for the logistics of supporting 30 base staff and up to 400 visitors to conduct scientific research for the summer season, which kicked off this month. 

All of this went to support scientific research that Mr Trotter said had global relevance. 

“We know that we’re seeing quite marked changes in weather patterns across the world, and New Zealand is seeing that already. 

“We know that these big drivers of our weather systems are related to Antarctica. Antarctica is the coal furnace at the bottom of the world that is driving our weather. As that environment changes, it will have a marked impact on our community.”

Cycling is popular even in Antarctica. Mr Trotter takes a tour of the Ross Ice Shelf on a fat bike in February 2017. PHOTO: Julie Patterson

One of this season’s major research initiatives aimed to gather new information about the ice deep within the Ross Ice Shelf and the ocean currents underneath it. Mr Trotter said the logistics that went into supporting a big project happening 300-400km south of Scott Base were quite complex taking into account such extreme weather conditions. 

“We have to move huge amounts of cargo, science equipment. We have to establish fuel caches and manage that in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. 

“It is really, really important the pre-work, pre-planning, the recruitment, all the equipment that we have to purchase and move. The actual delivery is such a small part of what we do but equally as important to get that good result.”

In addition to his own roots in Te Anau, Mr Trotter said Fiordland’s Southern Lakes Helicopters had been a part of their helicopter operation for the last five years.

“Having a really safe and professional operation down here is absolutely key for us. Southern Lakes really contributed to driving that strong health and safety culture with Antarctica New Zealand.”

Entering another research season, Mr Trotter said the conservation philosophies he had while living in Fiordland went hand in hand with his work at Scott Base.

“You only have to look out your front door there in Te Anau and see how beautiful that environment is. There are similar challenges for us in Antarctica as there are in Fiordland around the management and stewardship of that landscape. 

“That’s exactly why I’m invested and committed to what we do here because I believe the answers to the questions that our scientific community will make will contribute to a better understanding of what we’re doing to our environment back home in New Zealand and around the world.”

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