Winter Flights to Antarctica

The Royal NZ Air Force is now able to fly to Antarctica in winter. Crew are now able to use night vision goggles so that the plane can land in winter. Remember it is dark for 24 hours a day during the winter. In the past, staff at Scott Base were isolated from March until October. They also had no fresh food unless a plane could fly over and drop a parcel of supplies.

The flight last week carried fruit, vegetables, fresh meat and some spare parts for machinery. Only 11 staff – 3 women and 8 men – are staying there for the winter and their job is to keep machinery working. The weather today was -39 degrees Celsius. There was no daylight. It is dark all the time.

USA, Italy and NZ use Christchurch airport for their flights to Antarctica. The distance is nearly 4,000km. In 1955, the trip took 14 hours. These days, the RNZAF Hercules takes about 7 hours. The US Globemaster is a much bigger plane and it takes 5 hours. During the summer, over 100 flights leave Christchurch for Antarctica, carrying, in total, 5,500 passengers and 1,400 tonnes of cargo.

Staff at Scott Base (the NZ base) will celebrate the shortest day with a mid-winter dinner.

For more about Antarctica, listen to Summer Season and October 4th 2013, and Antarctica now in darkness.


• crew – pilots and navigators
• vision – eye-sight, being able to see
• goggles – glasses, spectacles
• isolated – by yourself, nobody else there


1 What are the difficulties – mental and physical – in living in a place which has no daylight?
2 What can people do to keep themselves healthy?
3 These days Scott Base has internet access and Skype. What entertainment would you take with you if you were going to spend the winter in Antarctica?

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