Rescue and assistance missions are part of New Zealand's work in the Antarctic. Here, a Royal New Zealand Air Force plane makes the first of two supply drops – including fuel, pumps and other equipment – to the damaged Sparta, a Russian vessel. The Sparta was stranded in the Ross Sea for nearly two weeks after its hull was damaged by submerged ice.
The Antarctic is unforgiving and not all rescue missions have been successful. Lieutenant Commander Simon Griffith, skipper of the New Zealand Navy's off-shore patrol ship the Wellington, described the weather during a failed attempt to reach a distressed Norwegian yacht in early 2011 as 'the most intense storm I have ever encountered in 19 years in the Navy'. Winds of up to 182 kilometres an hour 'exploded' off the Ross Ice Shelf and swells were 8 metres high. Water swept onto the ship froze into a thick layer of ice on the decks. 'We could only make about three or four knots although we had 10 rung on.'
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