Key takes Cabinet reshuffle off ice

Prime Minister John Key will now focus on his Cabinet reshuffle after returning from Antarctica.

Key arrived back in Christchurch yesterday after an eight-hour flight in a United States Hercules from the Ice.

He said on Sunday that he would work on his "minor" Cabinet reshuffle as soon as he returned.

He declined to be drawn on which minister would be chosen to replace Lockwood Smith as Speaker, saying there were several contenders.

He hinted that Nick Smith would return to the Cabinet.

Key and wife Bronagh spent much of Sunday visiting some of New Zealand's scientific projects.

A highlight was a helicopter flight over Mt Erebus, the scene of the Air New Zealand DC10 crash in 1979 that killed 257 people.

While they were unable to see the crash site, Key said it was a poignant moment to see the mountain that had claimed so many lives.

It was "a place of great history and tremendous sadness for New Zealanders".

"It was very quiet in the helicopter when we were up at 13,000 feet and looking into the crater and just remembering those New Zealanders who had lost their lives," he said.

The Keys visited polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds, the base for his unsuccessful 1907-09 expedition to the South Pole.

On Saturday, Key handed back three bottles of Mackinlay whisky that had been buried in ice under Shackleton's hut since the expedition and excavated in 2010 by the Antarctic Heritage Trust while undertaking restoration work.

The bottles, from one of three crates of whisky found at the hut, were sent to Scotland distillery Whyte & Mackay, the brand's owner, for analysis and replication.

The Press