A New Zealand coroner in Christchurch holding a hearing into the death of Australian scientist Dr Rodney David Marks at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station on May 12, 2000 has found that the scientist died as a result of acute methanol poisoning.
The coroner concluded that Dr Marks may have mistaken the methanol for ethanol obtained from lab sources. Moonshine is suspected of being produced at the South Pole station and this too could have been contaminated with methanol.
The coroner highlighted the frustrations of New Zealand police in investigating the death without proper cooperation from US authorities who share in the operation of the South Pole base. He faulted the base's doctor for failing to diagnose the methanol poisoning, for failing to investigate needle tracks on the deceased's arm and not conducting "certain diagnostic tests".
Further hampering the NZ police investigation was the difficulty of obtaining evidence from US authorities, their failure to preserve or photograph the scene of death and to take statements from staff.
The coroner recommended the New Zealand government explore ways to improve cooperation with the US in conducting death investigations in the Antarctic.