Cape Town to become gateway to Antarctica | Polarjournal
Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Alderman James Vos in Antarctica. (Photo: Geordin Hill-Lewis)

Cape Town, along with Punta Arenas, Ushuaia, Hobart and Christchurch, is one of the five locations through which almost all cargo and personnel shipments to Antarctica pass. The mayor of Cape Town has now launched a campaign to position Cape Town as the “Gateway to Antarctica”. Tourism to Antarctica is growing rapidly and more and more tourists are traveling to this truly unique destination. This is now to be exploited and Cape Town repositioned accordingly. It is almost forgotten that a large number of supply flights also pass through Cape Town.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis launched a campaign on Feb. 6, 2023, to position Cape Town as a tourist gateway to Antarctica by taking a day trip from Cape Town to Antarctica. (Photo: Jan Gerber)

Cape Town is well situated to be a tourist gateway to Antarctica, with a short 5-hour direct flight over the Southern Ocean landing at Wolf’s Fang airstrip in Queen Maud Land. This is the location of the “White Desert Camp”, organized on a private basis. A day trip to the camp and back to Cape Town is available at a cost of $14,500 USD. On the other hand, a somewhat more expensive adventure, at USD 98’500, is the flight to the geographic South Pole and the visit to an emperor penguin colony.

The first wide-body aircraft, an Airbus A340 landed at Wolf’s Fang Runway in early November 2021. (Photo: Marc Bow / Hi Fly)

Geordin Hill-Lewis said, “It was a privilege to experience first-hand the pristine wilderness of Antarctica today on a short flight from Cape Town. We want more people to choose our city as their gateway of choice to Antarctica, in order to reach international scientific bases or experience the continent’s unique sustainable tourism offering. We are launching a new destination marketing campaign with a clear message – Cape Town is the best place to visit before heading south. Where else can you go from sunshine and beautiful beaches to Antarctica in just five hours?”

“It was also great to learn that so many of the materials for shelter and much of the equipment and supplies for Antarctica are manufactured and stored right in Cape Town. Visiting the remote seventh continent is the closest thing to experiencing life on another planet. Except this is our planet and the only one we have. Sustainable tourism not only brings economic and job-creating benefits to our city as a gateway, but also improves the viability of scientific research on the continent,” the mayor further stated.

Science goes other ways

The Troll Airfield, the Novo Runway and the Perseus Airstrip are airfields in Queen Maud Land reserved for science. From there, various research stations are supplied. Wolf’s Fang is the only purely privately operated airfield in Antarctica and is now also served by wide-body aircraft.

Tourism is one thing, but much more important is the fact that many research stations have their staff and material flown to Antarctica via Cape Town.

Novolasarevskaya Airfield, (Novo Runway) is located 8.7 kilometers south of Novolasarevskaya Station at an altitude of 550 m (1,804 ft). The airfield has a runway on stable blue ice and is 3,300 m long and 70 m wide. The Novo Runway is the first runway for wide-body aircraft in the Queen Maud Land area and was commissioned in 2002.

Since then, the “Dronning Maud Land Air Network” organization has been conducting scientific and commercial flights from Cape Town to the Novo Runway airfield. Antarctic Logistic Centre International (ALCI) is the operator for this flight connection.

Novolasarevskaya is one of the entry and exit points for Antarctic logistics. Various research stations are approached from here.

In recent years, new airfields have been built, which are also served by flights from Cape Town.

Troll Airfield is located about 7 km northwest of the Norwegian Troll Station and was opened by Queen Sonja of Norway on February 11, 2005, and the new research station the following day. Initially, Antonov An-2, DHC-6/300 Twin Otter, Dorniers 228 and smaller aircraft were used for services. Today, Troll Airfield is also regularly served by larger aircraft.

Perseus Airstrip – Since November 2019, transport aircraft have been flying from Cape Town to Perseus Airstrip, located 450 kilometers further east of Novo Runway. This airfield is located only about 60 km north of the Belgian “Princess Elisabeth Station”. This avoided inconvenient feeder flights to/from Novo, which were often postponed due to bad weather and were costly.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

Website: Wolf’s Fang Runway

Website: White Desert

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