New Zealand Defence Force personnel have a big job ahead of them: helping offload 3000 tonnes of cargo in the coldest, windiest, driest and most remote continent on Earth.

About 55 NZDF drivers and logistics specialists sent to Antarctica earlier this month swung into action today to offload a year of supplies for scientists working in the Ross Sea region.

Lieutenant Commander Ross Hickey, NZDF Senior National Officer in Antarctica, said it would take at least a week to unload the 3000 tonnes of supplies brought by cargo ship Ocean Giant.

About 5 per cent of the supplies were earmarked for the New Zealand Antarctic research facility at Scott Base, with the rest going to the US Antarctic research centre at McMurdo Station.


Ocean Giant's cargo includes food and drink, two new snowmobiles, two tracked snow vehicles, engineering equipment, vehicle parts and timber to help tide over scientists and support staff in Antarctica for another year.

Hickey said that once all the cargo had been offloaded, NZDF personnel would reload the ship with waste and items for repair from the previous 12 months.

Up to 220 NZDF personnel, including air crew and ground support staff, passenger and cargo facilitation staff, fuel specialists and heavy plant operators support Scott Base and McMurdo Station during the summer season.

Meanwhile, a million dollar project to save Sir Edmund Hillary's hut in Antarctica is now largely complete.

Thousands of New Zealanders chipped in to help save Hillary's Hut - mostly during a 2012km tractor journey, Expedition South, to raise the funds required.

For the past three months, the Antarctic Heritage Trust has had a dozen carpenters and conservation specialists on the ice saving the hut and conserving the hundreds of artefacts within it.

The trust's executive director, Nigel Watson, says they have now finished the major restoration.

The hut had been extensively renovated and was now asbestos-free.

It had also been repainted to its original colours - bright orange and yellow.

"It certainly stands out among Scott Base's green buildings."

The trust's team painstakingly conserved more than 500 artefacts - including two Marcus King paintings that were conserved under the guidance of Sir Ed's daughter Sarah Hillary at Auckland Art Gallery.

The trust's programme manager Lizzie Meek said the logistical challenges involved in the project were enormous.

"The extreme weather conditions and cold temperatures can freeze or change the materials you're working with and, of course, you can't exactly pop down to your local hardware shop to buy additional materials."