The Herald reports:
The New Zealand Defence Force is mourning the loss of one of its most popular and respected leaders, and a veteran stalwart of its support operation in Antarctica.
Major Mac McColl, or “Mac” as he was affectionately known at Scott Base and in the defence community, died on Saturday morning after a short battle with cancer.
This is devastating news to anyone connected to Antarctica. Mac basically ran Scott Base, and was one of the vital kegs in our long-term operations there. He was basically our host when I stayed down there in January.
He had a total commitment to Antarctica, to Antarctica NZ and to keeping the people down there safe. Also very well regarded by the Americans at McMurdo.
Mac as well as hosting us, gave us tours of places like the heritage hut built by Sir Edmund Hillary and the observatory. A great ambassador for Antarctica has been lost.
McColl, who joined the New Zealand Defence Force in 1977 as a Territorial Force field engineer, saw operational service in Sierra Leone and Timor Leste, along with several stints in Antarctica.
A recipient of seven medals, including the New Zealand Operational Service Medal and the United Nations Medal Sierra Leone Medal, McColl held a range of development and training appointments as a soldier before being promoted to major in 2004.
“Apart from his professional achievements and the respect in which he was so widely held, Mac was also notable for his sense of humour, camaraderie and willingness to assist others,” Weston said.
His association with Antarctica lasted three decades, in a range of roles with the US Antarctic Program’s Operation Deep Freeze, the NZDF’s Operation Antarctica and Antarctica New Zealand.
Most recently, he was seconded to Antarctica New Zealand as the New Zealand defence senior national officer and key member of the planning and logistics team.
Antarctica New Zealand’s Antarctic operation general manager, Simon Trotter, said McColl’s passions were logistics, aviation, planning and people, so it was no surprise that his role satisfied his appetite for challenges.
“Mac was a respected leader bringing a range of proven skills, knowledge and experience to the Antarctic environment.”
McColl was also a great believer in the value of a cup of tea and a good conversation with other people, Trotter said.
“He valued relationships with his colleagues and National Antarctic Program associates greatly.”
Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Peter Beggs said McColl’s strong leadership presence, mentoring skills and humour were “consistent features” of his character.
“The measure of a person is often reflected in the positive impacts and quality of relationships had with others,” Beggs said.
“Mac will certainly be remembered for his great qualities, the friendships formed and teaching as the value of the simple things in life such as a good cup of tea and conversation with others.
“His enduring smile and sense of humour will live on in our memories.”
My thoughts are with his family, and the wider NZ Antarctic family who will be mourning.