World’s first non-stop scenic flight to the South Pole | Polarjournal
What used to be reserved for researchers, station staff and adventure tourists has been opened up to the general public by Australian company Chimu Adventures and airline Qantas: Seeing the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station from the air. Image: Jeff Warneck, NSF

Nowadays, airplanes are the fastest way to get to Antarctica. Even within the white continent, many places can only be reached by plane. This is how the stations are supplied and people, primarily science teams and station personnel are brought there. This is also true for the South Pole and the Amundsen Scott Station, where you can also go as a tourist and put your feet on the southernmost point of the world. Actually an expensive and logistically complex undertaking. The Australian travel company Chimu Adventures has now changed this.

Together with the Australian airline Qantas, the company operated the world’s first non-stop scenic flight to the South Pole from the Australian city of Melbourne. Aboard one of the airline’s Boeing 787 “Dreamliners,” passengers were able to see various parts of Antarctica and especially the South Pole during a flight that lasted about 16 hours, but without disembarking. The guests were accompanied by a team of experts from Chimu and Australian adventurer Daniel Bull. Besides the view from the airplane at different heights, the guests also received lectures about Antarctica, especially the historical aspects.

The flight route passed by the most important geographical points of the continent, such as Cape Adare, the Erebus and Terror volcanoes and the Beardmore Glacier. On the way there they wanted to follow the route of Scott, on the way back that of Amundsen. Pictures: Chimu Adventures, Map: Michael Wenger via Google Earth

The aircraft’s route was from Melbourne towards Cape Adare, where Carsten Borchgrevink had erected the first building on the continent. From there, the pilots followed the coast to Ross Island and a safe distance past the active Erebus and Terror volcanoes. In the process, they also flew over the two huts of Robert Falcon Scott and then followed his route to the South Pole. Thereupon, the aircraft flew over the station and the South Pole several times to give everyone on board a view of the area. The return journey was to be made in the footsteps of Amundsen via the Bay of Whales and the Ross Ice Shelf. But guests were instead given the opportunity to experience the Dry Valleys, the mighty Drygalski Ice Tongue, and the entire western coastal region of the Ross Sea with its pack ice and icebergs. The flight ended back in Melbourne.

Aircraft at the South Pole are nothing new per se, as Basler planes regularly land and take off there. And tourist sightseeing flights to Antarctica have also been back on the program of Chimu Adventures for the last two years. From Qantas, the company regularly charters Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft to fly to the Ross Sea region from Australia and sell them as scenic flights. A flight to the South Pole was the logical consequence to expand the portfolio. “”We dug deep into Chimu’s vast knowledge of Antarctica and paired it with Qantas’ unfaultable aeronautical navigation and logistics skills to make this incredible one-day journey to the South Pole possible,”” said Chad Carey, Managing Director at Chimu. Also for the 10-member escort team on board this tour was a unique novelty, which was celebrated accordingly after successful completion. The aircraft seats 191 guests and provides full on-board service during the flight. Two meals and bar service are included in the trip price, as is offsetting the emissions generated in the process, Chimu Adventures points out. To ensure that all guests can also enjoy the view, Chimu applies a seat change system during overflights and seats cost between 1,895 and 10,885 Australian dollars, depending on the seat class selected.

Tourist sightseeing flights to Antarctica were already a topic in the 1970s, at that time from New Zealand to the Ross Sea region. But when an Air New Zealand plane crashed into the flank of Mount Erebus in November 1979, killing all 257 people on board, this form of tourism ended. It was only two years ago that Chimu Adventures started again to offer flights from Australia to Antarctica, especially to the Ross Sea region. Critics of the offer point to lacking cost-benefit effect to inspire humans for Antarctica and its protection correctly, because it lacks the direct relationship to the experience Antarctica, since one does not get out and thus cannot experience the landscape and the animals directly. When asked why one should book such a roughly one-day flight if they can’t get off, Chimu Adventures explains, “Whilst the route of this flight is a bucket-lister and Antarctica buff’s dream-come-true, the excitement and entertainment inside the cabin, as we trace the routes of formidable explorers will be palpable.” In addition, one would experience areas of Antarctica that few have had the privilege of seeing before. Whether that is enough of an answer for the critics of this form of tourism remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Chimu Adventures is offering another flight to the South Pole in early December.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

More on the topic

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
error: Content is protected !!
Share This