Just doing his job

June 29, 2015

North Otago helicopter John Oakes received a Royal Humane Society award last week for risking his life saving those of others in Antarctica.

Rebecca Ryan tells the story of that rescue which John said was just doing his job:

On December 1, 2013, John Oakes saw the helicopter in front of him crash in a remote, heavily crevassed area in the Antarctic.

Mr Oakes was flying the other of two helicopters returning from a mission to survey a penguin colony.

Landing about 15m away in whiteout conditions, about 240km from Davis Base, Mr Oakes turned to his passenger and said:

”I hate to say it, but I don’t think anyone could’ve survived that.”

Then they saw movement.

One woman crawled through the snow away from the wreck and the pilot also appeared.

The other Australian expeditioner was found trapped in the wreck, hanging upside down, held by her seatbelt, with her foot caught in the seat panel.

They had all suffered serious injuries and Mr Oakes raised the alarm.

Two aircraft arrived overhead within an hour and a-half, but due to the deteriorating weather and the surrounding area of bad crevasses, they were unable to land and returned.

Frequent snow showers and blizzard-like conditions continued as Mr Oakes and his passenger tended to the injured, making sure all the three were protected from the elements, one in a bivouac shelter and the others in the rear of Mr Oakes’ helicopter.

They waited on the ice for 20 hours before there was a suitable weather window to fly to Sansom Island, where another plane was waiting to help return the injured to Davis Base.

He took two of the injured there, refuelled and returned to the crash site with a doctor and an engineer on board.

On the return to Davis Base, storms started to hit again, Mr Oakes said.

”We were back into 58 to 60 knots, the aeroplanes were getting a hammering, we were getting a hammering, so we were pretty happy to land back at base,” he said.

Arriving at Davis Base, Mr Oakes was totally exhausted at the end of what had been a harrowing 36-hour stretch and said it was his 28 years of North Otago Search and Rescue experience that had kicked in to get him through.

Last week, he was presented with a Royal Humane Society medal for his efforts in the rescue, which was a ”pretty humbling” experience.

The medals are given for acts of bravery in which rescuers put their own lives at risk to assist others whose lives are in peril.

Mr Oakes said he was ”just doing his job” – he was in the Antarctic, working for the Australian Antarctic Division, as helicopter support flying people to isolated places to assist in scientific studies. . .

This honour is well deserved.

It isn’t the first time John has risked his life to save people but you’d never hear that, or any of the other extraordinary stories of just doing his job  from him.


Quote of the day

June 22, 2015

Bit surprised because we were really doing our job. It’s what we’re there to do; to fly people round and look after them as best we can. – North Otago helicopter pilot John Oakes on receiving a Royal Humane Society of New Zealand award for risking his life to save others in Antarctica.


Rural round-up

January 29, 2011

Pied Pipers of Galapogos Sally Rae writes in the ODT:

Herbert couple John and Bruna Oakes have played a major role in helping protect the wildlife and plant life of the Galapagos Islands.

Mr and Mrs Oakes, who own Central South Island Helicopters, were approached to do some work for the Ecuadorian Government, due to their expertise in pest control. . . 

The golden shearer hits 70 – Colin Williscroft writes in the ODT:

When Brian “Snow” Quinn needs to shear his flock of about 400 ewes, he does most of the hard work himself, although he admits getting in some help when it is needed.

At 70, there is nothing wrong with that, he reckons.

In his heyday, of course, Mr Quinn was a champion shearer – a world champion at one stage – and today he is still hugely respected for his legacy, having won the Golden Shears competition in 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1972. . .

Only the tough survive the Wairere hills – Jon Morgan writes:

Asked to explain the key to being a successful sheep breeder, Derek Daniell thinks for a second or two, then smiles and says, “Well, to put it simply, it’s about tits and bums.”

He looks down the hill to a small group of two-tooth ewes hugging the shade of an overhanging bank and explains. “It’s tits because the ewes need to be good milkers and rear big lambs.” He points to the two-tooth rams on the hillside above him and adds, “And it’s bums because that’s where most of the meat is.”

 All sheep prices look good: Tony Chaston at Interest.co.nz writes:

With a picture telling “a thousand stories”, we thought it would be good to review where livestock commodity prices are at compared to the last 3 years by way of our charts.

The wool price rises are spectacular, with crossbred prices back to they were in the 80’s. And it may not be over yet with supply  restricted and no stocks in the pipeline.

 

Wools second auction of the year produced price rises that are unprecedented for decades.

The 6-13% rises for different wool classes lifted the indicator levels dramatically, especially for crossbred (44-49c) and lamb (61c) wools. . .

Rakaia sales show confidence – Tim Fulton writes in NZ Farmers Weekly:

Three years ago it felt like a struggle to get rid of them – now his top pen of store lambs has made $151 and owner Stuart Millar can’t help murmuring “it’s incredible”.

Millar, a champion sheepdog trialist, attributes the price shift to a massive shortage of sheep as dairy expansion and storm losses alter supply and demand for stock.

Flock numbers appeared to be well back on early-season estimates, Millar said following his family’s Suffolk and Perendale sale at Peak Hill.

Their offering of just over 2600 lambs averaged $100 as did another Gorge property Snowdon Station which sold 5400 Suffolk and Perendale lambs. . .

Works buyers breaking ranks – also in NZ Farmers Weekly:

With works struggling to find enough cattle some buyers are starting to break ranks and are competing for cattle by paying premium prices, PGG Wrightson agent Vaughan Vujcich said at the Kaikohe sale.
It was another strong market with 780 head on offer with prices for most of the store market on a par with the previous week which was already high. However, there were still increases for heavier, more forward cattle with schedule changes and a lack of prime cattle for killing.
The cattle market at Pukekohe was very strong with all classes being in very big demand, Chris Humphrey of Livestock Mart Auctions reported.
“This is a trend which looks to only get better as was predicted late last year as cattle numbers are very low in most sales and demand is huge. This will not change for a long time and this shortage of cattle is a real concern,” he said. . .

Confessions of a hunter-gatherer – Steve Wyn-Harris in the Farmer Weekly:

For many years at this time I’ve felt a martyr to the cause on behalf of this country’s export earnings, well at least from Hinerangi Road anyway.

I’d diligently keep slogging away except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day while all the neighbours, stock trucks and various reps magically disappear. The road becomes a sleepy quiet byway instead of its usual busy vein of commerce and frantic activity.

I wonder how others can be so organised at a busy time of the year or alternatively why I am not. . .


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