Helicopter are used in McMurdo for short-range field delivery, for example in the part of the Transantarctic Moutains that are close to McMurdo or trips to Ross island locations such as Erebus volcano. And of course they are used to lift and move heavy pieces of equipment like shown in the first picture. There is a helipad in McMurdo next to Ob Hill. I did not have the opportunity for a helicopter trip, our field area was too far (600 km) from McMurdo.
The military cargo plane Hercules, or C130, is used extensively for transport by Americans in Antarctica. It is called LC130 when it has skis on it to land on ice and snow. It is slower then the C17 and has 4 propellers. Sometimes, it is even used for transport from New-Zealand (an 8 hrs flight to McMurdo from Christchurch). Same story as the C17, however. You are cargo, it is noisy, there are hardly any windows. It is pretty cold inside too, although they have you wear your full ECW (Extreme cold weather) gear. But hey, you are lucky to be in Antarctica, so stop complaining! It was great fun to take yet another military plane! Another particularity of the LC130 is to empty its cargo through the back door while still moving on the runway! We were transported by LC130 on the McMurdo - CTAM (a camp in the Transantarctic mountains) stretch.
The main type of plane used to reach McMurdo in Antarctica from Christchurch in New Zealand is a military cargo plane, a C17. It takes 4-5 hours to make the trip. The Americans have their own terminal in the Christchurch airport for their flights to Antarctica.
A trip in a C17 is not the greatest ever as passengers are treated like cargo, and seats added to the cargo bay as needed. But worst of all, there are hardly any windows! There are 2 tiny round windows in the cargo bay from which all the passengers want to take pictures, you have to wait for your turn! However, the pilots and crew are very nice and knowing that their passengers are dying to see Antarctica from the air, they let us in the cockpit 2 at a time. As it is a cargo plane, it is not insulated for noise. They give you ear plugs so noisy it is and you cannot really carry out a conversation. Anyway, it was an awesome experience overall!
Skidoo or snow-mobile is the vehicle of choice in the field in Antarctica. We spent hours driving skidoos on the ice in search of meteorites. It is quite bumpy as the ice is sculpted by the wind. Before being allowed to drive one, you have to go to skidoo school in McMurdo where they show you how to maintain and repair a skidoo. No garage to call in the middle of nowhere in Antarctica if it breaks down! The only brand I saw was the Canadian one, Bombardier.
There are a lot of weird looking vehicles in McMurdo. All are adapted to the harsh conditions, being able to drive on ice, snow and mud. This generally involves huge tires or cater-pillar style traction. See the pictures for examples! Ivan the Terra bus is the bus that transports passengers to and from the airport on the Ross sea ice. It may be soon replaced by a huge bus/truck/monster shown on the 2nd picture.
The Twin-Otter plane is used for short trips by Americans in Antarctica (a couple hours flight or less). Twin-Otters brought us to our field locations. It is quite small and you can only fit one skidoo in it at a time. For us, with 8 skidoos for our 8-people expedition, that is already 8 trips just for the skidoos! It is also noisy, cold but it has windows!! The pilots were all Canadians and quite daring. They are asked to land in odd places at times for scientific expeditions and there is no runway ready for them most of the time!
Making an Antarctic-cruise onboard of the Bark Europa certainly makes sense for every sailing-fan, but for all the others it might be good to think about another ship !
The best about this small sailing-ship is certainly, that you will be able to land and go ashore anywhere with all of the passengers at the same time, because according to the so-called "Antarctic-treaty" not more than 100 passengers of the same ship are allowed ashore at the same time.That means, a ship with 400 passengers will have to split the tours into 4 terms and while the first term might have sunshine.
English is the main language onboard.
22 days of cruising from and to Ushuaia is
5100 euros p.p. in a 4-6 person-cabin
6300 euros p.p. in a double cabin
take a look at the video of my brother Bernhard (he is abvideo here on VT)
about our cruise on the Bark Europa:
The part with Antarctica is at the end of the movie
after 1:26 min !
The Polar Star is a former icebreaker and it is one of the ships that obviously offers also some cheaper inner-cabins without private facilities. I saw an announcement of "last minute" antarctic cruises for 4500 US $ in a travel agency in Ushuaia and when I asked for it, they said they would call the shippingcompany of the polar Star for free berths.
The ship was built in 1969 and refitted and upgraded in the year 2000 and cruising on an icebreaker is certainly the best way to cruise in Antarctica, and between june and september they are cruising in Svalbard / Spitzbergen.
The ordinary price of a cruise is around :
5700 GBP for a 12 day expedition
and 8200 GBP for a 19-day cruise
the ship belongs to
Karlsen Shipping Co Ltd
based in Halifax
Smoking was not allowed anywhere onboard except out on deck, midships, and it was also not allowed to throw the remains of any cigarette overboard. Out on deck, midships we also had a few board-parties and lunch-buffets,that was a lot of fun, although there were never enough seats there for everybody. So we mostly were standing with our plates in the hands there and were eating like that.
The midship-part of the ship was also the part where you would be almost on the level of the water, a fact that was quite important when watching or taking pics of penguins, whales and other animals - you would never be able to get so close to the wate-level at any other cruiseship !
The forship was certainly the best place to enjoy the landscape and icebergs passing by, but unfortunately it was quite small for all of us passengers at the same time and besides of this its floor was not totally even, but had several fixtures for sailing-gear, so it was always a certain danger to stomble, when steppig back or on the side, while taking photos.
At special places like the Lemaire-channel the forship had to be totally empty of passengers, so the captain could take a better watchout for dangerous icebergs.
The National Geographic Endeavor is a traditional expedition-ship with a maximum-capacity of only 110 passengers, so it has the perfect size for a ship cruising in Antarctica. The Endeavor was formerly known as "Caledonian Star" and we met her in the Antarctic at Vernadsky Point, where they had some scientists onboard that started their turn for half a year working-period in the scientific station and the ship took back the other scientists going on vacation.
Le Diamant is a cruiseship with ice-classification of 1D and it is carrying 220 passengers as a maximum. All cabins are outside and they have twinbeds or kingsize-beds,TV sets,minibar and a lot more storing-space than our small sailingship, the Bark Europa.
Some of the cabins even have their private balcony, there is a panoramic observation lounge, a fitness center, 2 restaurants and a library with e-mail station. The outdoor swimming pool will certainly be out of order in Antarctica, but the sauna will not.
A certain handicap of this ship will be the number of passengers, even when they say that, when sailing in the Antartic there will not be more than 140-180 persons onboard, all landings in the Zodiaks have to be made at least in 2 turns according to the rule, that not more than 100 persons are allowed to be ashore of any ship at the same time.
We met "Le Diamant" in Peterman Island and in Port Lockroy.
This ship of Quack expeditions is certainly the best possibility to do cruises in Antarctica and it is also the most expensive way to explore this remote part of the world.
M/V Captain Chlebnikov is the name of this russian Icebreaker, that was built some years ago and had done several cruises directely to the Northpole and nowadays it offers special tours to the Weddel Sea or circumnavigations of Antarctica, going to places, where only a real icebreaker will be able to take you !
Zodiaks are the best boats to explore Antarctica, and most probably also the only ones beeing allowed there, where almost at none of the places, where you can land, there will be a pier. Instead you will have to try to find a sandy and flat beach, where you may land the zodiak and when stepping in or out the zodiak you will hardly every may avoid to step at least for a short moment into the icy-cold water.
This is the reason, why everybody has to wear wellies.
Inside the Zodiaks you will sit on both sides of it and when you are lucky you will find a rope to hold on with at least one hand. With the other hand you will hold your camerabag and in the beginning I thought I might easily fall overboard, but none of our passengers ever had that problem !
The biggest problem is the water that might splash over, when the Zodiak hits a big wave and you will get wet all over.
The54 ft steel yacht S/Y Sarah W. Vorwerk is a small sailing-yacht based in Ushuaia and they also offer cruises to the Antarctic ! Sarah W. Vorwerk is sailing with a total of 8 guest-berths. I have not done it and I certainly will never do it, but it might be interesting for you to take it into considderation.
S/Y Sarah Vorwerk is doing cruises of 4 weeks
6800 euro p.p. is the price for 28 days
in a 2-berth-cabin
Click on the link below and read more about it !