A story of grief and hope forty years on from Erebus

Sean Plunket 07/11/2019

When an Air New Zealand sightseeing plane crashed into the slopes of Mount Erebus in Antarctica in 1979, all 257 people on board lost their lives.

Among those lost was the grandfather of writer Sarah Myles who has published the first ever book from a family member of one of those on board.

In Towards the Mountain, Sarah Myles uses extensive research and interviews to weave together the stories of her grandfather, Frank Christmas, as well as his fellow passengers and those who recovered and identified the bodies. Sarah recounts to Sean that, “at the time of the disaster I was three years old.”

I have a very distinct memory of these big blue men coming through my grandmother's door.

She tells Sean that at the time she didn’t know who they were but after research she discovered the men had come with photographs of her grandfathers clothing as a means of identifying his body.

Myles recalls the time of her grandmother’s death, who was devastated by the loss of her husband, how Sarah had memories surrounding the impact of the Erebus disaster but had no concrete information which was part of how she came to research it more thoroughly.

The difference this book reveals compared to other attempts at telling the story, she tells Sean, is that this book focuses on “what actually happened”, of the experiences of the families related to the passengers, and of the experience of the men and women who worked to identify them.

Towards the Mountain: A story of grief and hope forty years on from Erebus is on sale now.

You can listen to the full interview above.