22 minute video of my scenic flight over Antarctica.
Happy New Year,|
I don't know where to begin to describe the experience of the last 24 hours. Flightseeing has been my favorite vacation activity since my first scenic flight in Alaska back in the summer of 2000. And to be able to do that from a first class seat of a Qantas 747-400 was truly an amazing experience.
The fun began even before we got on the plane. I met lots of interesting people from all over the world who have come to do this. It was interesting to talk to them and hear of the interesting places they were from and places they had traveled to. Below is Christy and the giant penquin at gate seven as we wait to board our 747.
Once on board I had the best seat on the plane, 1A. The people back in economy had to share one window with five people. I had three windows all to myself. There are only 14 seats in the first class section. Each seat comes with a smaller adjacent guest seat and when fully reclined they form a bed which was nice for the flight back from the ice at 2:00am.
It was a four hour flight to and from the ice and we had four hours over the ice. On the flight down the food and booze was never ending. I'm going to have to do a lot of walking today to walk it all off. A brass band wandered the plane to entertain during the flight. The Captain came down from the flight deck on the way to the continent to personally greet each first class passenger. This was the 38th time Captain Dennis had flown the Antarctica flight. Along with him there were three other experienced captains in the cockpit so were really felt like we were in good hands. Also on the way down the Captain talked with scientists living in Antarctica via satellite phone.
On the way down there was almost total cloud cover all the way. They told us not to worry about that and we would not be disappointed once we got to the continent. They sure were right. Almost immediately after we saw the first icebergs floating away from the continent the skies cleared and you could see for hundreds of miles in all directions. No smog down here of course the visibility is endless.
We crossed the South Magnetic Pole and started to see the rugged mountainous topography of the Antarctic mainland.
Captain Dennis slowed the plane and descended to around 10,000 feet and flew figure eights over the continent for four hours.
Expert Antarctic expeditioners were onboard to talk about the polar environment and its history while were flying over the continent.
They have over 19 different approved flight plans. The Captain monitors the satellite cloud picture in the days leading up to departure and on the morning of the flight he selects the route with the best visibility on that day.
Below you can see my fellow guests enjoying this amazing experience.
When over Antarctica the captain flies at approximately 10,000 feet or 2,000 feet above the highest ground within 100 nautical miles. This altitude provides excellent viewing while still respecting the wildlife habitats at sea level.
Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent, overlying the South Pole. It is situated in the Antarctica region of the southern hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
The cone shaped mountain behind the huge massive glacier is Mount Melbourne in the picture below.
At 5.4 million square miles in area Antarctica is the fifth-largest continent. On average, Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents.
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica at an area of roughly 188,000 square miles and about 500 miles across which is about the size of France. Ninety percent of the floating ice is below the water surface.
Below you can see the two ice runways of one of the Antarctica bases.
And below is a closer look at that runway.
Below is a nice view of the Antarctica coastline.
You wouldn't know it by looking out the window, but it was almost midnight. It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere and the sun doesn't set this far south during the summer.
The band played Auld Lang Syne at midnight as we rang in the New Year.
We toasted Champagne at midnight. You'll have to watch the video to see that, I don't have a picture.
Antarctica has no indigenous population and there is no evidence that it was seen by humans until the 19th century.
Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation of only 8 inches along the coast and far less inland. There are no permanent human residents, but anywhere from 1000 to 5000 people reside at the various research stations scattered across the continent throughout the year.
Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive in Antarctica, including penguins, seals, mosses, lichen, and many types of algae.
Our Qantas 747-400ER was operating as QF Flight #2901 a scenic charter to Antarctica.
I didn't want to leave, but our time over the ice was almost over.
During our flight today we traveled around 6200 miles.
Captain Dennis said we set a record today for the most time spent over the ice. Below is our last look at Antarctica before the four hour flight back to Sydney.
After over 12 hours in the air the sun rises over Sydney prior to landing in the picture below.
Below we're back in the Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport. We said goodbye to our guides and the giant penquin.
I'm gonna catch a nap now. Have a happy New Year everyone!
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