Antarctica is dealing her icy hand, delivering a series of storms that have caused the longest delay in decades for the start of the season.Antarctica New Zealand staff were due to fly south on 1 October to set up Scott Base for the science season ahead, but wild winds and snow have closed the McMurdo Sound airfields.
Antarctica New Zealand General Manager of Operations, Simon Trotter, says the team is working hard to minimise impact on science planned for the beginning of the season.
“There are only 22 weeks in the season, so a two-week delay, especially at the beginning, is significant. Although weather delays are beyond our control, we deal with them every year. All we can do is re-schedule and wait for the window of opportunity,” he says.
“The storms have also affected our US neighbours who are due to fly south to McMurdo Station” says Mr Trotter. “Unlike us, they can’t send their employees home to wait it out – so many of them are getting to know Christchurch very well!” Meanwhile, the US participants in Christchurch are getting required training they’d otherwise get in Antarctica to maximize their productivity once they reach McMurdo.A U.S. Air Force C17 Globemaster is patiently waiting on the tarmac at Christchurch Airport for the Antarctic storms to subside. As soon as the weather clears, the C17, along with an Airbus, will start flying United States Program participants and New Zealand staff south to the ice.
Weather permitting, flights will start tomorrow. The plan is to start clearing the backlog with seven flights over the next week.
Assuming, of course, that Antarctica plays nicely!