International Antarctic Centre (IAC), Christchurch,
This is at the Christchurch International Airport and handles operations for many operations from New Zealand, the U.S., and Italy. The IAC has a webpage with lots of information about all sorts of things. (If you go there, you'll be leaving the CARA Virtual Tour, so you should use your browser's "Back" button to come back here.)
Clothing Distribution Center and Departure
You have to make sure that you have all the clothing you will need to keep you warm. Here's where you collect all that gear....
... and here's all the gear that's available.
Statue of Robert Falcon Scott in the center of Christchurch. Scott was the second person to make it to the South Pole. Then, as now, New Zealand was the last stepping stone to Antarctica. In McMurdo, you can see Scott's Hut still in Antarctica.
The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) employs Hercules (LC-130 and C-130), Starlifter (C-141), and Galaxy (C-5) aircraft in airlift operations. From 1955 until 1999, the Navy [Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6)] flew various aircraft in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program, including LC-130 aircraft. In 1998 at the Navy's request, the Air Force/Air National Guard took-over command of the DoD support to the USAP (Operation Deep Freeze) from the Navy. VXE-6 continued to augment the Air National Guard with LC-130 flights until it was disestablished in March 1999. The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, which had augmented VXE-6 since 1988, became the sole USAP provider of LC-130 aircraft support, beginning with the 1999/2000 field season. Most of the pictures you see on the Virtual Tour date from before 1998, so most of the aircraft pictured are Navy; for more recent photos, see our page on the NYANG.
In any case, during the summer, these planes fly between Christchurch, New Zealand and McMurdo, carrying passengers and cargo. C-141s and C5s are wheeled jet aircraft and land only on the annual sea ice runway (see McMurdo page). Ski-equipped Hercules aircraft (Hercs) and Twin Otters land on the ice runway or on a prepared skiway in the open field. Depending on the time of year, both types of runways are used for flights to South Pole Station, field camps, and occasionally to other stations.
Weather conditions are critical, so decisions to fly are often made on very short notice, and flight times are very flexible and may be advanced or delayed by several hours.
LC130 aircraft in New Zealand.
This close-up of the LC130 landing gear shows them to be unlike those found on most other planes. This special gear allows wheeled or ski landings, so these are the kinds of planes used to go between New Zealand (where they need wheels) and McMurdo Base in Antarctica (where they need skis). Only about a dozen Hercs in the world are equipped this way. This kind of plane without the gear is called a C-130 -- with the gear, it's an LC-130.
Waiting for your turn to board the plane.
Boarding plane for trip to McMurdo Station.
This is what the inside of the plane looks like for your 8 (eight!) hour flight to McMurdo. Yes, this is as "first class" as it gets. In this picture, some passengers are eating a boxed meal.
It's a long, noisy flight. But you can still try to sleep. (This is Randy Landsberg and Janice van Cleve, from their 1997 trip.) Photos: CARA/R. Landsberg
Actual quote from paperwork given to you at Christchurch:
If your checked baggage for the flight to McMurdo exceeds 75 pounds, you must advise us as soon as possible... Please note, your 75 pound baggage weight allowance includes approximately 35 pounds of extra cold weather clothing which will be packed [for you].
My baggage is indeed under the weight limit, take me to McMurdo!
Other information about New Zealand as a gateway to Antarctica: