A ceremony has been held at Wilkes station in East Antarctica to commemorate the victims of a fatal plane accident at the site 50 years ago.

The American plane Neptune P2V crashed during take-off on November 9 1961, killing five of the nine people on board.

The plane crashed after fuel leaked from the plane’s fuselage tank causing a massive fire.

At the time the crew was returning from a geomagnetic survey to Russia’s Mirny station as part of Operation Deep Freeze and had stopped overnight at Wilkes.

Recently Australian expeditioners wintering at nearby Casey station laid a plaque at Wilkes to remember the men who lost their lives lost in the tragic event.

Casey Station Leader Mark Hunt said the plaque was presented to him at the Australian Antarctic Division’s headquarters in Hobart late last year by the Neptune’s surviving co-pilot Ernest Hand.

“Mr Hand was still deeply moved by his memories of the accident and his time in Antarctica, so I am pleased we are able to honour him and those who died by holding this ceremony,” Mark Hunt said.

“The plaque has been affixed to a rock cairn overlooking Newcomb Bay and the old Wilkes station and lies next to other men who have died on the icy continent.”

“I think it’s important to have a permanent memorial here so as time erodes the physical evidence of the crash, snow and ice now covers the majority of the remains of the plane, it is still remembered long into the future,” he said.

Wilkes was an American station which had been handed over to Australia in 1959. Australia used the station until ‘Repstat', eventually renamed Casey, was built on the Bailey Peninsula in 1964. The current Casey station was officially opened in 1988.