Back from Antarctica

October 19, 2017

Back from Antarctica, what an experience!!!

Fourteen hours in the air in a 747 400 series with the red 6 foot high upturned wingtips to minimise drag, maximise lift and reduce wingtip vortices. Increasing lift for more efficient flying and fuel economy to allow for maximal flying time and a maximal Antarctic experience.

We weren’t allowed to fly below 18,000 ft at any time, 5 hours of flying over the driest continent in the world, glaciers, enormous mountains, sea ice, icebergs, from Ob Bay to Dryglaski Ice Tongue. Flew up Reeves Glacier over Mt Minto with the captain conducting an air to ground conversation with one of the scientific expeditioners (Amy) on Casey Scientific Base.

We did figure of 8 flying over the coastline and up and down the Reeve Glacier. The flight deck crew didn’t do any more fancy flying than the bit of waggling of the wings, and lots of freestyle maneuvers over the area.

What’s the one thing you wouldn’t expect to see in such a remote place…. another aircraft…. we did see a Hercules flying to drop off supplies but it didn’t make any air to air contact of any kind apart from visual, but it did leave a vapour trail. I took a picture but wasn’t sure if it would be visible in the vastness of the scale of things.

I was sitting in a window seat and next to me was the wife of the No 1 captain, with the wife of the 2nd captain on the other side of the aisle. (There were 3 captains in all, 2 very senior as you would imagine, one captain in training to be “endorsed to do the trip” and a 2nd officer).

The food was fantastic, lunch, snacks, and dinner on the way back.

  1. What do you have for dessert for lunch on the way to Antarctica?
  2. A frozen plateau of apricot ice cream, I would have thought penguin flavour, but perhaps that’s a little insensitive.

I managed to get my souvenir map autographed by all of the flight deck crew (without even asking), signed with my red Viagra pen which is now a collector’s item, as there won’t be anymore made. The souvenir map autographed at 38,000 feet, a new Viagra record, and to top all of that, I was presented with the satellite navigation papers from the flight schedule, and a visit to the flight deck once we had landed back. No one is allowed in the flight deck during flight, including the two women next to me, but we were then all invited to go up later. I was invited to sit in the pilot’s seat, steering wheel in hand, but couldn’t find the pedal for the metal.

I was in the lift, leaving the hotel on Sunday morning at 5am when an older couple got in. We all paused in the foyer of the hotel, as the departure and arrival schedules of the airport were listed on big plasma TV screens.

“We’re going to Antarctica” she announced, “So am I,” I replied. So in the dark, Doug, Annette, and I walked to the airport. She told me she “sets off all of the buzzers when she goes through the security,” with her syringe driver morphine pump.

We invited them to come up front in the plane during the time over the ice, and it was Doug who was a bit squeamish with all of the to-ing and fro-ing of the rolling of the big bird, so I gave him some stemetil, and the flight attendants were handing out Weiss bars. He started to feel a bit better, and after a little while they went back to row 66.

The glaciologists talked about climate change no end, and how 70% of the entire earth’s supply of freshwater is locked into the ice in Antarctica. They explained that if all of the ice there melted, the sea/ocean levels would rise by something like 60 or 70 metres.

But overall I had a fantastic time! You should do the trip,you’d love it. You have to love flying though too, especially in figure of 8’s, lots of banking, moving around the aircraft. I felt like I was walking either uphill or downhill and there was a lot of feeling a “bit under the weather.” I was unsteady on my feet negotiating the aisles and sitting on the armrests of the seats. I still feel a bit light headed but that might be a contribution from the chardonnay which I haven’t had in awhile.

Now for a coffee, breakfast or make that lunch. I haven’t even pulled open the blinds in this room yet, which looks out over Mascot airport where I can see planes coming and going. The runway out into Botany Bay, all of the ground activity, it’s not as busy as Frankfurt Sheridan air-side hotel though, where I watched planes coming and going every 30 seconds for, you won’t believe this, but it’s true, 8 hours. All sorts of planes, big ones, medium sized ones, little ones, iddy biddy ones, one of the busiest airports in the world. The window was like one huge TV screen or watching a Nat Geo travel show.

I still haven’t recovered from the vast impact of that huge frozen continent.

By Dr Judith O’Malley Ford

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