David Eric Geddes; 1946-2015


With the passing of David Geddes, New Zealand lost not only an officer and a gentleman, but a great advocate for Antarctica and those associated with the continent. His fine personality impressed all whom he came in contact with.

Dave Geddes who was born in Invercargill, enjoyed a career exceeding 21 years with the Royal New Zealand Air Force. When 21 he was posted to Singapore where he married Sarah Hill who was with the Royal Air Force and remained married until 1986. Dave flew in Malaysia and Thailand and as a navigator was on Bristol Freighter aircraft, supporting New Zealand during the Vietnam War. Upon returning to Whenuapai with 40 Squadron and now flying in RNZAF C130 aircraft, he again served as navigator and attained the rank of Squadron Leader. On returning to Christchurch, he was a highly competent instructor and an inspiration to many. He first visited Antarctica 1970-72 with RNZAF, as crew, on 40 Squadron Hercules. Dave retired from the RNZAF in 1986, and then achieved an early goal - to work in Antarctica.

Dave had, on retirement from the RNZAF, considered establishing his own business in the sports industry. However, in 1986 he was appointed Operations Controller to Antarctic Division (DSIR). It was, he said, to be his 'dream job', and it suited his excellent leadership and management abilities. He enjoyed the pre-Antarctic training camp, then held at Tekapo Military Camp, and loved Antarctica, where he soon proved his worth. The position was often very demanding and he was frequently away several months a year. Further overseas travel included that with the New Zealand delegation to a Special Antarctic Treaty Meeting on air safety, attending a planning meeting for the 1989-1990 Marie Byrd Land Geological Expedition and in January 1989, when he participated as New Zealand Observer for the Treaty inspection tour of Antarctic stations. He regarded his liaison with the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes to be of special importance.

In 1989, while Senior New Zealand Representative (SENZREP) at Scott Base, a position he held on five occasions, Dave met prominent mountaineer Maryann Waters, whom he had appointed Survival Instructor for the first of her four summers in Antarctica. Following the resignation of Hugh Logan, who transferred to the Department of Conservation in 1991, David Geddes's role with the New Zealand Antarctic Programme (NZAP) was then that of Acting Manager 22 August - 14 November 1991 until the appointment of a new Director in 1992. He then served as SENREP for a further three occasions.

In 1994 when Dave and Maryann married, his final post with NZARP as SENZREP was from 6 November - 7 December 1994. He retired in early 1995 from the NZAP, to settle in Queenstown where the couple already owned a holiday home. Here Dave became self-employed, initially with an aerial photography business and subsequently as a business, risk and emergency planning consultant. He was also pivotal in the resurrection of the Returned Services Association (RSA) Queenstown Branch then in recess and became the Otago - Southland Branch President.

In 1996 Geddes Crag (81 32S 155 47E ) a crag immediately south of the All-Blacks Nunataks, 10 kilometres northwest of Rutland Nunatak, in Antarctica was named by the New Zealand Geographic Board in honour of Dave.

David Eric Geddes was a man who had the special ability of being able to relate to all members of the community. He was a man of sound judgement; he was wise, compassionate, a good communicator, and, when necessary, a strict disciplinarian. He got immense enjoyment from relaxing with his Antarctic friends who were always welcome at the new home he and Maryann built in Frankton.

The New Zealand Antarctic Society conveys sincere condolences to Maryann and Dave's family on the passing of a good colleague, friend, loving husband and respected family man.

David Harrowfield. David is grateful to Maryann, the RSA and Antarctica New Zealand, for assistance with information for this obituary.

John Richard Claydon (1917-2014), Wing Commander (retired), AFC, Polar Medal


John Claydon was born in Christchurch and grew up in Sumner. He entered the New Zealand Air Force in 1936 and began pilot training in 1942. In the latter part of World War II he was posted to No 14 Fighter Squadron and completed three tours of operations in the South Pacific. After the war he served in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces. On his return to New Zealand John was appointed as Flying Instructor and in 1954 appointed to command Wigram's Flying Training School.

In 1955 John was selected as chief pilot for the RNZAF Antarctic Flight in support of the New Zealand Support Party and the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition led by Vivian Fuchs. In December of that year he joined Sir Edmund Hillary, George Lowe and Bob Miller on the advance party voyage in the ship Theron to Vahsel Bay in the Weddell Sea. John's three and a half hour reconnaissance flight in an Auster plane, after the ship became trapped in the ice pack, found a way out and saved the expedition from defeat.

He and Junior Pilot Bill Cranfield provided outstanding air support for Hillary's party by transporting men, dogs, equipment and supplies throughout the Ross Dependency during the two years of the expedition. While Hillary was away in the field with his tractor party John served as leader at Scott Base. John, Bill Cranfield and aircraft mechanic Wally Tarr were awarded the Polar Medal. John was also awarded the Air Force Cross. John always regarded his time with the TAE and Hillarys Support Party as the highlight of his life.

In 1960 John was appointed to Washington DC as Air Attache where he served for three years. In later postings he commanded administration at Ohakea, honorary aide-de-camp to Governor-General Sir Bernard Ferguson. After retirement from the Air Force he worked as assistant manager at the Christchurch International Airport before going to Kathmandu to advise in airport management in Nepal.

He was a stalwart member of the New Zealand Antarctic Society, the New Zealand Institute of Management, and the Commonwealth Society and helped establish the Air Force Museum at Wigram.

He enjoyed hunting and fishing. In the words of a person who knew him well John was "a gentleman who believed strongly in tradition and loyalty".

Stephen Hicks, NZAS Canterbury Branch