Sunday, 30 October 2016

Four weeks to go!

It’s just over four weeks now until I head down to Antarctica. I’ve had all the blood tests and a medical check, and it looks like I’m good to go!

Other years, I’ve not paid much attention to news items about the first flights to Antarctica after the winter. This year, I’m way more interested! The first flight for the 2016/17 summer season left Christchurch at 9.04am on 3 October, and touched down on the Pegasus Runway at 2pm after a five hour flight (on a US C-17 Globemaster, if you want to know). You can see a video of their arrival here. (It looks pretty windy when they get off the plane!)

Scott Base Crew 2016/17, arrival of first flight. Photo by Anthony Powell.
©Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection, 2016/17

Many people are fascinated by the idea of going to Antarctica. These are the most common questions I've had so far:

How long does it take to get there?
It’s 3832km from Christchurch to Scott Base, and it takes from 4 ½ to 10 hours to fly there, depending on what kind of plane and what the weather’s like. (By comparison, Christchurch to Sydney is 2137km and takes about 3 hours. Or Auckland to Rarotonga is 3006km and takes about 4 hours.)

How cold will it be?
I’ve just had a look at the Scott Base webcam and today’s weather info online. Then I wished I hadn’t. It’s minus 19.5 degrees!!
However – look on the bright side. This is what the weather table records for rainfall:
·         Rainfall (last hour): 0.0 mm
·         Maximum rainfall per hour (last six hours): 0.0 mm
·         Yesterday’s rainfall: 0.0 mm
·         Rainfall (this month): 0.0 mm
·         Rainfall (to date this year): 0.0 mm
So at the moment, it’s cold – but dry. In four weeks’ time, I’m hoping it might be a little bit warmer.

What sort of clothes will you have to take?
Luckily, I’m pretty much sorted for clothing, thanks to Antarctica NZ. All I have to pack is indoor clothing for Scott Base, much like what you’d wear at home. The day before I leave, I’ll be trying on masses of gear to make sure it all fits - and after that, the main problem will be trying to figure out what order to put everything on.

Here are some of the more unusual questions I’ve been asked:
·         How long can you stay outside before you freeze?
·         Why does the sun not melt the ice?
·         Could you snow board there?
           Is Antarctica a country?

You can find answers to most of these questions here on my Antarctica blog (and if the answers aren’t there yet, they will be soon). 

I’d love to get more questions, so let me know anything you’d like to know about Antarctica, and I’ll try to find out the answers.  

Teachers and librarians – click Follow on the blog to follow my trip, or contact me (or email me at books[at] if you’d like a copy of my Schools Pack, with everything you need to run a Thinking about Antarctica Day, and templates for Ask Me About Antarctica and Winter Letters to next year’s wintering over staff at Scott Base. 


  1. Wow Philippa, this sound really exciting! Can't wait to hear about your adventures.
    Cheers Kylie