Keith Woodford describes Erebus crash scene

Keith Woodford, one of the three New Zealand mountaineers who were the first to land at the Erebus crash site, describes the conditions they were met by (quite muffled) on 30 December 1979.


Interviewer: When you took off on Thursday morning, what were the conditions like?

Keith Woodford: Well here at McMurdo they weren't terribly good. We'd in fact been helicoptered back from the Dry Valleys where we we're working at the time of the accident. So we were actually about 100 or 150 miles away. And we had to wait here at McMurdo for the weather to clear because at that stage the cloud level was so low that there was no way the helicopter could get near the crash site.

But when we flew in about 9.30 in the morning the weather was clearing. In fact when we got to the crash site the winds were quite light. And in fact it was a lot easier to land than what we thought it would have been because the slope was only about 20 degrees, which was quite [inaudible] less than what we'd been led to expect. And although even a 20 degree slope does pose quite a lot of difficulties for the helicopter it wasn't really too bad at all. He was able to drop us down. The winds were pretty light. So he could just hover just with just one [ski?] touching the snow, drop us off. Really no problems at all.

Interviewer: Do you suddenly come across the site or do you work into it from a long way out?

Keith Woodford: Oh, you can see the crash site from quite some distance away. Yes, as you're flying into it.

Interviewer: What were your emotions, I wonder, when you stepped on the snow there?

Keith Woodford: Oh well, it's just one of those things. Everybody is obviously very upset by the accident. We're just as upset down here as everybody else is in New Zealand. It affects everyone the same way.

Interviewer: I want you to describe what it was likely walking up towards it; did you land close to the wreckage?

Keith Woodford: Yes, we just landed quite close to the wreckage. And we just then put the ropes on and just went around the wreckage just to see if there were any survivors or not. To a layman like me it appears that everyone did die instantly.

Crash scene on Erebus

Scene on Mt Erebus shortly after the first investigation and recovery parties arrived on 30 December 1979.

Part of: Hearing the news


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