Thursday, November 01, 2007
The first step is to reach Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch is one of the the closest airstrips and only a 5 hour flight to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. But just because you’ve booked a flight to Antarctica, it doesn’t actually mean your plane will actually land. Due to the extreme weather conditions, it takes several attempts before pulling off a successful landing. That means, if your pilot doesn’t feel comfortable with the weather conditions, you have to fly back to Christchurch and try again another day. 10-12 hours down the drain. They call this the “Antarctica Boomerang.”
I was watching the Today Show the other day and they are trying to send Ann Curry to Antarctica for a segment called The Ends of the Earth. She’s currently at Christchurch in queue for the “Boomerang.” The Ends of the Earth airs on the Today Show Nov. 5th and 6th, but who knows if Ann will actually make it to Antarctica in time for the broadcast. And if she does make it, Ann doesn't know when she can leave.
Ann nervously put it, “The record number of boomerangs is 7 for a single flight... we don’t know when we’re gonna get there and we’re not actually sure when we’re gonna be able to broadcast live, and we’re not sure when we’re gonna get back.”
The most practical way for the average person to see Antarctica is by taking an Antarctic icebreaker cruise around the ice-free coastal areas. Some of these icebreakers are large enough to have their own helipads and have helicopters that can transport passengers to research stations on the mainland.
But once you successfully reach Antarctica, you can hangout with 1000+ scientists and support personnel, and even do some eco sightseeing. Several cold-adapted plants and animals call the South Pole home including fur seals, penguins, whales, mosses, lichen, and many types of algae. Plus the Antarctic Treaty protects the continent's natural ecozone and prohibits military activities and mining. And believe it or not, there are also 31 volcanoes in Antarctica. But don't get too excited. Only 4 of them have erupted in the last 25 years including Mount Erebus in 2007.
Personally, I may never make it to Antarctica, but it will be interesting to watch Ann Curry try. You can track her progress online here: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/21487444
Brrrr voyage Ann!