New Zealander James Hamilton has told the Canberra inquest into the death of pilot David Wood about how he tried to rescue the man from an Antarctic crevasse.

Wood fell into the crevasse during a routine fuel drop on the Western Ice Shelf last year.

He was rescued but died of hypothermia at Australia's Davis Base.

Hamilton told the Canberra Inquest on Thursday about how he volunteered to go into the crevasse.


He said he did it because he was the skinniest member of the rescue team.

"It was very smooth and it was very uniform... seven metres down it had a bend and then just tapered like a big wedge," he said, quoted by ABC.

"At the bend I could see the top of his helmet."

Hamilton told he spoke to Wood and he replied saying "I'm cold, get me out".

By the time he managed to reach the pilot, his state had deteriorated and, according to Hamilton, he was "coming in and out of consciousness" and repeating himself.

"I would not call him alert."

Wood was wedged in the ice and screamed when rescuers tried to pull him upwards.

Hamilton told the court that he had two options at that moment: lift Wood out by the arms or wait for him to die.

Wood was eventually freed at a second attempt and brought up to the surface.

He said the incident could have been avoided if the area had been properly probed for crevasses.

The inquest continues.