How To Travel To and In Antarctica
There are two choices for mode of transport when traveling to Antarctica either as a tourist or to work there. It’s either by ship or aeroplane, however ship is by far the most popular, particularly for tourist cruises and voyages.
Aeroplanes are difficult and risky to get to Antarctica and they are usually reserved for trips by Personnel working there or for emergencies. The main difficulty being weather related, the aeroplane must be able to carry enough fuel to do a return trip on one tank in case it has to turn back due to not being able to land.
The trusty sea going ship is still by far the most popular, and I have to admit it is by far the most entertaining – if you don’t suffer from sea sickness. Most Antarctica tourism operators hire ice breakers or ice strengthened ships to get you there, there is definitely nothing else like seeing the ice edge as you enter the pack ice belts surrounding the Antarctica continent, and watching those massive ice bergs float silently past as a majestic albatross circles the deck above, and the occasional whale blows out a jet of water from its spout. Yep it is a once in a lifetime experience.
So once you are there how do you get around? What modes of transport are available for tourists visiting the great white ‘Deep South’ – Antarctica? Here is a brief list of transport used in Antarctica and why!
Modes of Transport in Antarctica
- IRB’s Inflatable Rubber Boats. Probably the most versatile and most fun way to get around in Antarctica. They are used to get from ship to shore but also for sight seeing cruises around the Antarctic coast and Islands. They are however probably one of the most coldest (coolest) ways to get around. Basically you are open to the elements and the faster you go the greater the wind chill factor, however with the correct clothing and conditions they are the best way to see the splendour of the Antarctic coast, Icebergs and wildlife.
- Quad Bikes, they are the IRB of the ice. Quad bikes are used extensively by Antarctica bases personnel. Probably not so popular amongst tourists unless you take your own, however they are versatile, all terrain vehicles, but unfortubnately again they are open to the elements. You can however get heated Helmets and Handlebars to take the chill away from the most vulnerable areas.
- Skidoos, not as versatile as Quad Bikes but better in heavy snow conditions. Most bases and stations will have Skidoos but would not be that popular amongst tourist operators.
- Hagglunds all terrain vehicles. If you get to visit an Antarctic base or station then chances are you will get to ride in one of these babies. They are extremely loud, slow and uncomfortable, but they are a safe warm way to get around, and they float should you have the unfortunate experience of breaking through the ice!
- Walking or Hiking – a great way to get around and save the planet from green house gasses. For some Antarctic locations and bases that is the only way to get around on dry land/ice. At Macquarie Island this was the only mode of transport on the island but it was a great way to experience the sheer majesty of the place and the awesome wildlife.
- Helicopter or Chopper – Most Antarctic stations and bases will have a helicopter either permanently or for the summer season to facilitate transport for scientists and during re-supplies. They are a quick and relatively easy way to get around, however they do require a number of resources including radio operators for operations, fuel caches and good weather. Some of the larger tour operators will have helicopters for emergencies and possibly for “jollies” for the tourists. Again if you are fortunate to visit a station with a helicopter you may even get a freebie ride!
- Light propeller aeroplane. Again some Antarctic stations have light aeroplanes as a mode of transport, particularly for travelling from base to base and for scientists research where long distances need to be covered. They also require a number of resources such as radio operators, fuel caches and good weather.
That about covers it, there are other modes of transport in Antarctica but they would be for specific tasks such as tractors, bulldozers and even utilities for around the stations and bases.
So if you are fortunate enough to travel to Antarctica make the most of it and see one of the last unspoiled frontiers on this world, but please leave it that way!