Remnants of the crashed DC-10 on Mt Erebus have emerged from the Antarctic ice as New Zealand remembers its worst peacetime tragedy.

A party that flew to the crash site for a 25th anniversary memorial service yesterday morning was stunned to see a section of the fuselage with the letter A and the Air New Zealand colours clearly visible.

A jet engine and orange cargo netting lay further up the slope.

The wreckage has not been visible for years but a light snow year and an unusually warm spring have combined to reveal a stark reminder of the tragic end of flight TE901 with the loss of all 257 people aboard.

On a clear, relatively mild day of minus 6C those present could only wonder again: how could this have happened?

The jet, flying on the wrong co-ordinates and in whiteout conditions, struck Erebus just 500m above sea level.

 

In a simple, poignant ceremony yesterday, water from Aoraki/Mt Cook, given by Ngai Tahu, was sprinkled at a memorial cross on a bare rocky rise 1km above the speck of wreckage.

The water was a symbol of blessing and of love, said the Very Rev Peter Beck, Dean of Christchurch.

He donned a white robe and a purple stole over thermal survival clothing and mukluk snow boots to conduct the short ceremony.

Three wreaths were laid in this place of unparalleled solitude and grandeur, where there is no sound but the wind.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff represented the Government, chairman Paul Hargreaves Antarctica New Zealand, and Scott Base services manager Major Graeme Tod stood in for Air New Zealand.

The party returned by helicopter from Erebus across the frozen sea and the Ross Ice Shelf to Scott Base for a ceremony that included Americans from nearby McMurdo Base.

The half-hour remembrance included hymns and readings, a poem by Bill Manhire read by Sir Edmund Hillary and music composed by Christopher Cree Brown.

The ceremony moved inside to the base mess after the temperature dropped to minus 12C.

Mr Goff said time and nature had healed the scars on the mountain but those who had lost their loved ones would grieve on this day.

At 11.49 am - the moment of impact - people moved outside Scott Base and stood with heads bowed in a bitter wind before the New Zealand flag flying at half-mast - and remembered.

- NZPA