Christchurch - Gateway to Antarctica
The Antarctic Office has been established with the aim of driving Christchurch to be an exemplar Antarctic gateway city. While the Office has been established by the Christchurch City Council with committed annual funding through the 2015-25 Long Term Plan, the Office reports to, and is directed by the Antarctic Office Board, with representation from partner agencies.
The Antarctic Office Board has delegated authority to provide strategic direction and leadership through the Antarctic Office so that the objective of Christchurch becoming an exemplar Antarctic Gateway city is successfully met. This will be done primarily through the development and implementation of the Antarctic Strategy.
Christchurch International Airport
As New Zealand’s launching pad for Antarctica, Christchurch Airport receives passengers from around the world who will be working in the Ross Dependency, Antarctica. The Airport also welcomes visitors arriving into Christchurch who wish to explore the rich history the city has with Antarctica.
The Antarctic apron is home to the specialist aircraft that use the airport as a base for flights to the ice, and an Indian totem pole of friendship stands at the entrance to the airport complex which was carved in 1959 and donated by the United States in appreciation for hospitality given to personnel of Operation Deep Freeze.
When Antarctic scientific expeditions began in the 1950s the United States Air Force, Air National Guard and the Royal New Zealand Air Force were stationed in Christchurch as part of Operation Deep Freeze. Sixty years on that partnership has deepened and the operations remain active all year round.
Between September – March Antarctic operations are in full swing. During this period New Zealand Hercules, American C17s Globemasters, Ski-equipt LC130s and other specialist aircraft can be seen on the Apron north of the main passenger terminals, loading freight and personnel for the 4,000kms flight to McMurdo Sound.
During the summer operational season, aircraft make around 100 flights to Antarctica and moving than 5,500 passengers and 1400 tonnes of cargo. Over 75% of the world’s scientists travelling to Antarctica depart from Christchurch.
The British Antarctic expeditions departed from Lyttelton on their voyage to Antarctica in 1901 and 1910. Having farewelled a number of Antarctic explorers from early days to current times, Lyttelton continues to provide the refuelling station for Antarctic supply vessels.
The International Antarctic Centre
In 1992 the International Antarctic Centre was opened just a few minute’s walk from the passenger terminals of Christchurch Airport and right next door to the national Antarctic programme offices based in Christchurch. The centre is the only specialised Antarctic attraction in the world and is an important outreach and education location for Kiwi’s and international visitors alike.
New Zealand IceFest
NZ IceFest highlights New Zealand’s leadership in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
This Christchurch festival focuses the world’s attention to the importance of the white continent and helps us understand the impacts we may face as our climate systems change. Through creative and interactive experiences the Festival brings Antarctica to the general public, the Antarctic community and international visitors.