Museum leads search for Erebus workers

Museum leads search for Erebus workers

Nearly 40 years ago, Air NZ Flight TE901 crashed into Mt Erebus in Antarctica, killing all 257 passengers and crew and sparking one of Police’s landmark operations.

Within hours of the crash, on 28 November 1979, Operation Overdue swung into action. Eleven members of Police staff flew to Antarctica for body retrieval, and 157 others worked in disaster victim identification, family liaison and other roles.

Now the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) is leading a project to create a national memorial to commemorate those who died and the efforts of the many people who took part in Operation Overdue.

Police is helping MCH compile a database of the contact details of all those who would like to be kept informed about the project.

Rowan Carroll, Director of the New Zealand Police Museum, is coordinating the search for the estimated 350 people who worked in relation to the disaster. In many cases their details are known, but a number have died and others are dispersed nationally and internationally.

They included police, mountaineers, surveyors and face rescue teams, New Zealand and US Defence personnel, Auckland Hospital and Auckland University staff, dentists, jewellers, funeral directors and embalmers, staff from Air New Zealand and McDonnell Douglas, media agencies and others.

“The important thing is that no one is overlooked,” says Rowan. “People should have the option of being kept informed, or be able to opt out if they wish.

“The thing now is to find them – we don’t want anyone to be upset because they’ve missed out. The last contact we had was in 2009 when the Erebus Medal was presented - contact details have changed.”

Separately, MCH is seeking to contact the families of victims.

  • If you were involved in Operation Overdue please email Rowan at Rowan.Carroll@police.govt.nz, providing your name and contact details.
  • If you are in contact with victims’ family members who have not had any contact with MCH, please pass on this email address - erebus@mch.govt.nz - to them.