Travelling to Antarctica
First Aid Requirements
Most people who travel to Antarctica with Antarctica New Zealand will need to hold a current First Aid certificate. The minimum standard required is Level 1 which covers NZQA unit standards 6401 and 6402. This is normally referred to as Workplace First Aid and involves attending a two day course. Some people will require a higher level certificate i.e. Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (PHEC) level. You should clarify with your Event Manager what level of certificate you require as part of your pre-departure planning.
Medical Examination Requirements
All personnel travelling to Antarctica with the New Zealand Programme must undergo an official Antarctic medical examination and have it assessed and approved prior to their departure.The required forms are located under the Medical tab on each individual’s site on the EMPEROR Personnel Portal. Along with the medical form is a Medical Guidelines document which details for the examining GP specific areas of concern and some conditions that may be disqualifying.
The completed medical form must be returned to Antarctica New Zealand at least four weeks prior to deployment to Antarctica. It is important that all requested test results be included. Incomplete forms or missing results will delay the process and could result in an individual being excluded.
All medical examinations will be assessed and approved by Antarctica New Zealand’s Medical Assessor prior to confirmation of travel.
As individuals will be working in a cold environment a pre-travel trip to the dentist is also highly recommended.
Medical Resources in Antarctica
Scott Base has a first aid room with some medical supplies and a qualified First Aid Officer who is able to assist with basic medical issues. Anything of a more serious nature is referred to the nearby United States McMurdo Station where there are limited hospital facilities.
Personnel currently on medications will need to take an adequate supply for the length of their visit taking into account that there may be travel delays of up to one week.
On one of the days leading up to departure for Antarctica, all personnel will report to the Antarctica New Zealand Clothing store for their clothing fit-out. This process will involve trying on all of the different items that make up our clothing kits in the correct layering sequence to understand functionality and ensure a good fit.
On completion of kitting out individuals will pack away issued clothing into the bags provided and take ownership of their kit. Individuals will receive a briefing from the Logistics Manager on their flight to Antarctica confirming aircraft type, departure times and the departure process. NZ Departure Cards will also be issued at this time.
All individuals are requested to take personal responsibility for their own biosecurity.
This will involve checking all personal belongings to ensure no organic material or any live insects are mistakenly taken south and potentially introduced to the Antarctic environment.
Particular attention should be paid to the soles of any footwear and any personal foodstuffs being carried.
Normally on the day prior to travel individuals will pack their bags. This involves combining personal items with the issued clothed kit and sorting it out into one of three categories;
1. Clothing you will wear – base layer, mid layer and outer layer. It’s a good idea to preload and secure miscellaneous items such as gloves and headwear into the pockets of the big outer jacket.
2. Handcarry – small or delicate items that will go in the green issued kit bag and travel with you. These items normally include towel, toiletries, medications, camera, book, laptop, drink bottle etc. (note: handcarry is limited to one bag only). The big outer jacket can also be carried or worn and is not expected to fit into the green bag. No sharps (pocket knives, screwdrivers, box cutters etc.) in your handcarry please.
3. Checked Baggage - items that will be checked in on the day of departure, travel as cargo on the aircraft with you and be available to you 2-3 hours after your arrival at Scott Base. It is not our expectation that all your checked baggage will fit into the black issued kit bag so an additional suitcase or backpack is not uncommon (note: the carriage of dangerous goods is prohibited).
All items of checked baggage will need to be labelled with our green Scott Base tags - these will be issued by our Logistics Team. The Scott Base Cargo Handler will uplift all checked baggage from McMurdo Station once the baggage box has been unloaded. Having all bags green tagged makes this process a lot easier for them and will hopefully avoid them having to make a second trip for missing baggage.
One item of checked baggage can also be orange tagged as a boomerang bag. What this means is that in the event of a 'no go' occurring on the day of departure after the check in process (due to maintenance or weather), or the flight departing but then turning back to Christchurch (boomerang), this one item will be returned back to you to assist with an additional night or multiple night’s stay in Christchurch, depending on length of delay. This has proved very useful and is highly recommended for non-Christchurch residents to utilise.
The total weight allowance for checked baggage is 38.56 kg (85 lbs). This is checked on the day of departure and will be enforced. The handcarry bag should weigh no more than 10 kg (22 lbs). Any individual requiring additional baggage weight allowance should have applied earlier and had it approved via the EMPEROR cargo system.
All individuals will report to the Antarctic Passenger with all their baggage at the requested time. Any delays will be communicated by the Antarctica NZ Logistics Team. If any person is feeling unwell or showing signs of illness they may be removed from the flight and travel at a later date to avoid the introduction of any viruses to Scott Base.
Completed departure cards and personal identification will be checked. For non NZ Citizens this id must be a current passport. For NZ citizens any picture id will be ok (normally a driver’s licence) but if you have a passport we suggest you use it.
After passing the id check passengers proceed on to the baggage check in, placing their checked baggage (including boomerang bag) on the scales, the weight will be recorded and the bags removed and loaded. Then the passenger will be asked to step on to the scales with their handcarry and that weight will also be noted. By totally accounting for all the passenger and baggage weights we can fully utilise the available payload for cargo on the aircraft. On completion of baggage check in passengers will swap their departure card for a numbered boarding pass and then normally have approximately 30 minutes of free time to relax, go outside, farewell friends, have that last cigarette for a while or go and get something to eat.
All passengers will then gather in the departure lounge and receive a briefing on what is about to happen then watch a 20 minute DVD on Antarctic basics focussing on personal safety. There will also be a safety briefing specific to the aircraft they will be flying on this will either be another DVD or a presentation by a member of the aircrew on board the aircraft. After watching the DVD’s passengers can utilise the toilet facilities then will be required to put on their outer Antarctic clothing and boots if not already wearing them. Most people will turn up to check in wearing ordinary shoes and then put on the big boots at this time. The shoes they were wearing will go in their handcarry bag and be put on again when they arrive at Scott Base, remember you cannot wear your big boots inside Scott Base.
Final screening involves passengers handing in their numbered boarding pass and swapping it for a pair of earplugs as most of our Antarctic aircraft are very noisy. Aviation Security will be on site, handcarry bags and big jackets will go through the scanner while passengers walk through the metal detecting archway. Then it is just a matter of uplifting their bag and jacket and getting on the bus that will transport them out to the aircraft. Passengers will be given a bagged in flight meal and a full bottle of water. They will then board the aircraft and be ushered to their seat by a crew member. Then it is just a case of stowing gear, taking a seat, securing the seat belt, sitting back and enjoying the ride.
Getting There & Your Arrival
Distance from Christchurch to Scott Base is 3,832 kms and the flight time can take anywhere from 4.5 to 10 hours depending on the aircraft type and weather conditions.
Arrival in Antarctica
You will land in Antarctica at one of two airfields depending on when in the season you travel.
Pegasus Ice Shelf Runway (early February until early December)
Williams Field Skiway (early December until early February)
You are expected to uplift all your carry-on baggage before exiting the aircraft your checked baggage will travel separately to Scott Base, usually 2-3 hours after your arrival.
Staff from Scott Base will normally be at the airfield to meet you. Look for someone wearing the Scott Base clothing (orange and black) or vehicle with the Antarctica New Zealand logo. If there is no one to meet you then catch the USAP Shuttle Bus which will drop you off at Scott Base on their way to McMurdo Station.
Welcome at Scott Base
When you enter Scott Base you will be met by the Scott Base Services Supervisor or their representative. Remove your Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing and place it in the locker provided. Remember to write your name on the outside of your locker. There is a toilet in this area if required. On the direction of the Scott Base Services Supervisor take your handcarry bag and proceed as directed to the briefing room or dining room where you will receive an introduction to living at Scott Base, your timetable of activities for the remainder of your day, a tour of Scott Base and directions to your assigned accommodation.
While On Ice
Antarctic Field Training (AFT)
Your first few days in Antarctica are usually taken up with Antarctic Field Training and preparation for your visit. AFT aims to provide:
- Basic snow craft skills
- Awareness of the unique Antarctic environment including recognition of dangers
- Awareness of safety routines and techniques including radio communications
- Ability to build shelter and provide food in emergency situations
- Understanding of sea ice, its processes and danger points
- Field camping techniques and procedures
All members of your Event will have a briefing with the Programme Support Supervisor in the first days of arrival in Antarctica. Your programme objectives and timeframes will be discussed as well as any operational constraints and issues.
If any aspect is unclear please ask - the Scott Base Leadership Team are there to help you.
Antarctica New Zealand supports up to 100 events travelling to Antarctica each summer operating season (from October to late February). An Event is a group (one or more people) who are working together with the same set of objectives. Events fall into the following categories:
- Winter Base staff
- Summer Base staff
- Antarctica New Zealand staff
- Environmental monitoring and compliance
- Invited visitors
- Invited media, artists and writers
- Operational support and contractor visitors
- Antarctic Heritage Trust
The following information aims to assist you with the packing and processing of your Antarctic freight. Please read each section to ensure you have the appropriate documents, forms and dates.
Delivery to Antarctica New Zealand
Antarctica New Zealand requests that all Event cargo be delivered to its Christchurch Warehouse at least three weeks prior to your departure for Scott Base. This gives adequate lead-time to ensure your freight arrives in Antarctica before you do. If your cargo arrives late it could delay your departure for Scott Base. When your cargo has left your organisation please email the Logistics Manager at Antarctica New Zealand advising the number of pieces, total weight, and name of carrier. Please inform us of anything over two metres long or oddly shaped. Any items that are to be held in Christchurch until you arrive should be clearly labelled. All cargo must have your Event number clearly marked on each piece and a complete list of contents (packing note) should be on the outside of each item. Please remove any old labels from previous Antarctic trips. Large crates (anything over 50 kg) should have bearers on the bottom (at least 50x50 mm) for forklift use.
Note: Polystyrene beads or chips must not be used for packing.
Special Cargo Types
- DNF 'Do Not Freeze' - temperature sensitive items that cannot be subjected to sub-zero storage. Space for DNF items at Scott Base is a problem. Please keep no freeze as small as possible, if you have a small piece of no freeze it's better to have it packed in a separate box than to put it in a larger box of general cargo making the whole lot no freeze. No freeze boxes should be painted black.
- Dangerous Goods / Hazardous Cargo - all hazardous cargo (i.e. flammables, acids, gases, chemicals) is to be labelled and packaged as per appropriate legislation. In most cases International Air Transport Association regulations should be followed. A current Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is to accompany each hazardous substance. Non-compliance will result in non-acceptance of these items. Please advise us where you intend to use each hazardous item as this will enable us to prepare paperwork in Christchurch and avoid extra work in Antarctica.All internal combustion engines are to be drained and purged of fuel.
- If you are in any doubt as to whether any cargo is hazardous please contact the Logistics Team at Antarctica New Zealand. Hazardous cargo is to be kept separate from general cargo
Receipt at Antarctica New Zealand
On receipt of your cargo at Antarctica New Zealand our Logistics Team will advise you by e-mail. They will also inform you of its cargo tracking number to make it easier for you to locate when you arrive at Scott Base.
Cargo Uplift at Scott Base
On arrival at Scott Base the Cargo Handler or Field Support Team will know as to the whereabouts of your freight. They are all located in the Hillary Field Centre.
Cargo Returning to New Zealand
When you depart Scott Base for New Zealand make sure all your return New Zealand (RTNZ) cargo is clearly labelled with your Event number and final New Zealand destination. Any special handling instructions (keep frozen, no freeze, hazardous etc.) need to be fully explained to the Cargo Handler before you depart. For any samples that you are not travelling with make sure a copy of your MPI permit is enclosed.
No hazardous cargo is to be left at Scott Base for future use unless the Scott Base Engineering Supervisor or Technical Support gives approval. A complete list of all cargo left at Scott Base for future use is to be included in your end of season logistics report.
Receipt in Christchurch
On receipt of your cargo back in New Zealand Antarctica New Zealand logistics staff will on forward it (normally by road transport) to the marked address as soon as possible. We will also advise you via e-mail that it has been dispatched, the carrier, and consignment number.
While all care is taken with the storage and movement of cargo by Antarctica New Zealand and its agents, Antarctica New Zealand will not be responsible or accept liability for any goods lost or damaged. Sponsoring organisations should arrange their own insurance as necessary. It is suggested that this cover should include: storage in New Zealand and Antarctica, transit to, from and within Antarctica, and in use in Antarctica.