In January 2001 I did a one day sightseeing flight on a Qantas 747 from Sydney to the Antarctic Continent. A number of these flights are held every summer and are organised by Croydon Travel in Melbourne. After a long flight over the Southern Ocean we reached Antarctica and spent about 3.5 hours over the ice in the George V Land and Victoria Land regions. Highlights included seeing the large icebergs and pack ice along the northern coast and the peaks and glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains. A selection of photographs from the flight is contained below. Click on the thumbnails to see larger images:

747 at Sydney
The Qantas 747 at Sydney airport. The aircraft left from the domestic terminal at 8:20 am and returned 12.5 hours later, after what is probably the longest domestic flight in the world. On the flight south we watched Antarctic videos and listened to commentary from the flight crew and guides, and made radio contact with the bases at Macquarie Island and Davis Station. About 11:45 am we crossed 60 deg S and entered the Antarctic treaty area. An hour later we reached the continent.

Flying along the Antarctic coast
View of the coast and polar plateau. The aircraft reached the Antarctic continent near Cape Hudson after almost 4.5 hours flying. The low cloud over the ocean gradually began to disperse as we approached the continent and views of the pack ice and icebergs became more frequent. The coastline consisted of a continuous stretch of ice cliffs beyond which was the featureless polar plateau rising into the interior.

Icebergs off the Antarctic coast
We flew west for a short while over the Cook Ice Shelf and saw many large tabular icebergs and enormous crevasses on the glaciers below. Even from 10000' above the crevasses looked huge. It was difficult to get a grasp of the size of everything.

The Antarctic coast The plane circled around at different heights and speeds to give everyone a good view of the scenery out the window. We flew east along the coast for a short while then headed southeast across the polar plateau towards the Transantarctic Mountains. Occassional nunataks were seen along the way.

Transantarctic Mountains As the aircraft approached Victoria Land mountains started appearing. The peaks below us were quite high but almost buried by the great depth of ice of the polar plateau.

Transantarctic Mountains The aircraft flew about 2000' above the peaks and there were great close up views of glaciers, valleys and mountains. After a while everything looked the same, but it was very spectacular.

Transantarctic Mountains The Transantarctic Mountain range crosses from one side of Antarctica to the other and contains some peaks over 14000' high. From our viewpoint the mountains seemed to go on forever. We flew south over these mountains for about one hour towards Cape Washington and Terra Nova Bay.

Passengers Passengers inside the 747. Half way through the flight the passengers on the outer four rows on each side of the aircraft changed seats to allow others a better view. Passengers in the two middle rows mingled around the cabin and the exit door windows to get views. It was not difficult obtaining viewing or photographic opportunities out of the windows and there was also the view from an onboard camera displayed on the video screens in the cabin.

Priestley Glacier We flew over the massive Priestley Glacier flowing down from the plateau to the Ross Sea. This glacier is named after Raymond Priestley who was a member of Scott's northern party that spent a winter sheltered in a small snowcave on nearby Inexpressible Island.

Priestley Glacier & Mt Melbourne Looking down the Priestley Glacier towards the Ross Sea and the Mt Melbourne volcano.

Priestley Glacier Flying above the Priestley Glacier and Transantarctic Mountains. The glacier is about 10km wide and the crevasses on the surface were massive.

Above Mt Melbourne We circled over the top of the cone shaped Mt Melbourne, a 2733m high active volcano - the only volcano on the Antarctic continent proper. Mt Erebus and other Antarctic volcanoes are on islands. Terra Nova Bay can be seen in the distance.

terra Nova Bay Flying above the Italian base at Terra Nova Bay. As we circled the base we could clearly see the buildings and an ice runway below us. Radio contact was made with the station leader who told us of the activities at the base. This was our most southerly point of the trip, about 75 deg S and only about 200km north of McMurdo Sound and Mt Erebus. We then headed north over the mountains, past Mt Minto and the Balleny Islands, followed by a few hours over ocean back to Sydney.

Contact "alanlevy at pcug dot org dot au" for more information.

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