The penguin has landed!
It was once, twice, three-times lucky for the crew heading to New Zealand’s Antarctic research station, Scott Base. The team of 43 landed safe and sound on the ice late yesterday afternoon, on their third attempt to reach Antarctica.
The crew originally departed on Saturday, and they got a fair way there, but the plane turned back in a rite of passage known as a ‘boomerang’.
On Monday, the same thing happened. After nearly nine hours on webbing seats, the team landed back in Christchurch.
Yesterday, the wildest, windiest and coldest continent finally gave them a break. The Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 completed the 3800km trip and landed at McMurdo Sound’s Phoenix Airfield at 4.08pm.
All up, the Scott Base crew spent more than 24 hours in the air, trying to get to work.
C-130s have a Point of Safe Return (PSR) when heading to the southern continent. If the weather is closing in at Scott Base, they have to turn around before the PSR, to get home safely.
A double boomerang - a feather in the cap for new Antarcticans - is not even remotely close to setting a record. Antarctica New Zealand’s institutional memory puts that at seven.
That’s right. Seven flights. In a row.
Antarctic conditions are notoriously harsh, and fickle. Last season saw 21 days of disrupted flights as the research season got underway.
The summer crew will take over from the skeleton crew of 17 people that kept the home fires burning at Scott Base through the winter. The fresh team consists of the engineers, tradies, mechanics, chefs, domestics, technicians and field guides required to make the research station run and support world leading science throughout the research season.
The first priority for the incoming crew is outdoor survival training, fire-fighting drills, and preparing for an influx of scientists in a couple of weeks.
Antarctica New Zealand thanks, thanks and thanks the New Zealand Defence Force, international Joint Logistics Pool, and Fire and Emergency New Zealand for their hard-work and patience over the five days.