“Another world entirely”: 16 hours to the South Pole and back

By Anna Lloyd December 9, 2022
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The first commercial scenic flight (direct from Australia) to the South Pole takes you to “another world entirely”.

“Yes, that really did just happen.” That’s my inner dialogue after alighting a Qantas Boeing Dreamliner 787 last week after 16 hours in the air, four over the white blancmange that is Antarctica and the South Pole.  

After boarding the flight in Melbourne, which was filled with the excited chatter of passengers, Antarctic experts and historians, and crew, we were up, up and away. A mere three hours and 45 minutes later we crossed the Antarctic coast – that’s the beauty of flying at 955km/h. 

From here the scenic flight took us soaring over the largest body of floating ice on the planet – the Ross Ice Shelf – then over the Beardmore Glacier and the Transantarctic Mountains, as we retraced the route of Robert Falcon Scott during his race to the South Pole in 1911. 

Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica. Image credit: Anna Lloyd

At the South Pole we gazed down on a collection of ant-sized buildings and vehicles that make up the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, manned year-round. The pilot then turned the nose cone back across the vast Polar Plateau to the Axel Heiburg Glacier and, again, across the Ross Ice Shelf to the Bay of Whales, following Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen’s successful route home, where he was crowned the victor in the race to the South Pole. Amundsen reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911, beating his British rival, Scott.  

Our Antarctic experts regaled us with stories of their exploits, and experiencing those jagged peaks and vast icy glaciers firsthand (albeit from above and in great comfort) made me marvel at the tenacity and determination of these Heroic Age explorers. 

We also connected via phone with two modern-day polar explorers, Dr Gareth Andrews and Dr Richard Stephenson, who are in the midst of their own adventure – Antarctica 2023 – to complete the longest-ever unsupported ski crossing of Antarctica (2023km). In doing so they hope to provide scientists with a unique database to help address climate change. Hearing from them about their journey added another level of immersion.  

Take a listen:

And immersion is perhaps the word that best summarises my experience, from the spectacular images I collected on that perfect blue-sky day – the Ross Ice Shelf, the Transantarctic Mountains, Mt Erebus, Zucchelli Station and, of course, the South Pole station – to the walk down polar history’s extraordinary memory lane.  

Video credit: Anna Lloyd

“The final frontier never looked this good.  

As far as the eye could see – the sun glittered gold,  

Stark white peaks  

Reaching to oblivion.” 

You can follow Gareth and Richard’s progress on Facebook and Instagram.

Anna Lloyd travelled courtesy of Chimu Adventures.