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Flight To Antarctica, Christchurch to McMurdo Sound Photo Gallery

Arriving at the Phenix Ice Runway in Mcurdo Sound, Antarctica

Today I stepped from an airplane onto the Antarctic sea ice in McMurdo Sound!  The temperature was -42 degrees Celsius with a light windchill.  10 days ago I was enjoying the tropical 28 degree heat of Tonga!  (Pinch me please.)  I am here to work and live at New Zealand’s Scott Base for the next 5 months of summer in the land of ice, penguins and blizzards.

Scott Base

Scott Base as seen from Observation Hill. Picture taken on my last trip to Antarctica in 2016


Departure from Christchurch

We awoke at 5am in our Christchurch hotel and made our way to the airport at 6am,  went through check-in, had a cup of tea, then bussed to the waiting airplane.

This season’s staff were super lucky! We got to use the Airbus A319 on charter from Australia, which has been fitted with approximately 50% extra fuel capacity. Very different from the usual cargo planes with few windows.

Flight to Antarctica

After the seatbelt sign had been turned off, some of us napped in the centre part of the plane where there were no seats. Carrying 50% more fuel means that the plane can’t be filled with passengers.

Take-off at 8am was followed by a super-smooth flight all the way to the southern-most continent. At that point, the mostly cloudy sky opened up to reveal the most stunning land of mountains and glaciers that I will ever set eyes on!  On the left side of the plane, the first point to come into sight was Cape Adare.  2 years ago, while on board an expedition ship, we did a zodiac cruise all around the cape looking for adelie penguins.  So crazy to be looking down on it from 33,000 feet!


The Trans-Antarctic Mountains

Antarctic from the air

Our first view of Antarctica!!


Flying over the Trans-Antarctic mountains

After crossing the coast, we flew right along the middle of the Trans-Antarctic mountains. There are countless glaciers, ghostly white mountain peaks, and dark crevasses that look like wrinkles breaking up the icy surface of the land.

The land of Ice....

The Land of Ice….

Antarctica from the air

Looking north to Cape Hallett

Soon the mountains moved away to the right as we flew over the western edge of the Ross Sea and south to the top of Ross Island.  All this way, far below us, we could see the frozen surface of the sea, moving in huge ice floes at the mercy of the wind.  We passed Colman, Franklin and Beaufort Islands.  Back in 2011, on my first visit to Antarctica, I visited an emperor penguin colony on Franklin Island on the Russian icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov.

To our left stood the mighty volcanoes of Terror and Erebus.  Cape Evans and Royds were clearly visible as we flew down the middle of McMurdo Sound, with their historic sites of Scott’s and Shackleton’s huts respectively.  And in the distance to the west, the dry valleys.

Mt Erebus

An amazing view of Mt Erebus on the way in to the Phoenix ice runway at McMurdo Sound

Erebus Glacier Tounge

Flying over the Erebus ice tongue


Landing at Phoenix Ice Runway

McMurdo Station (USA) appeared below us just a couple of minutes before landing and shortly after that, Scott Base.  These green buildings will be my home for the next 5 months!

The last half hour of the flight was spent preparing to depart from the airplane, slowly putting on layers. Last of all came our Extreme Cold Weather jackets.  Inside the plane was boiling hot, which all changed as we disembarked, stepping onto the ice.

Flying to antarctica

My friends, Jon and Emma, get ready to disembark into -42 degrees!

Flying to Antarctica

The Americans are in red jackets; Kiwis in orange and black.

A huge pat on the back to the pilots of the plane!  We touched down on the snow/ice runway without even a bump and smoothly came to a stop. What an incredible flight!

We were greeted by -41 degrees Celsius! which was 22 degrees colder than the lowest temperature I had previously experienced.  Steam coming from the airplane and waiting vehicles, along with the snowy background, sapphire-blue sky and low sun, made for the craziest atmosphere around the airfield.  That arrival is something I will remember for a long time!


We made it!



Wait for my Video

Because I don’t have access to YouTube down here at Scott Base, it will be 5 months before I can upload a video of the flight!  Subscribe to my blog on the right of this page to receive email updates during my 5 months living at Scott Base!

scott base

Our first morning of work, a familiarizing walk around base. It looks cold and it is cold! -48 with windchill factor included!



  1. Robyn Sykes says:

    You are an inspiration to all chris enjoy your life

  2. dena nickell says:

    You made it! Look forward to more communication and photos of your adventure! Awesome!

  3. Richard House says:

    Great Pictures Chris! Good to hear you had a safe flight. Will look forward to the video later.