Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Video transcript

TEXT BOX: Getting around Antarctica has always been a challenge.

TEXT BOX: From Mawson’s era...to the modern day.

OPERATIONS MANAGER, ROB CLIFTON: I reckon early explorers would be really jealous of the way we get around. I mean now with GPS and vehicles that have got heated cabins, it’s pretty easy I think compared to what they were probably doing.

So it’s a huge area that the Australian Antarctic Territory covers. The distance between stations is equivalent to Melbourne to Brisbane, so it’s a long way.

TEXT BOX: Travel between stations is by small planes.

ROBB CLIFTON: We are operating, obviously, in quite low temperatures, well below zero. And windy conditions as well and often with blown snow, which impedes visibility, which is pretty challenging for aircraft.

TEXT BOX: In winter the sea-ice acts as a highway for expeditioners.

TEXT BOX: They use quad bikes, skidoos and Hagglunds to get out in the field.

TEXT BOX: On the plateau people travel on GPS marked routes.

TEXT BOX: In summer small boats are the transport of choice.

ROBB CLIFTON: You know, in the middle of summer you can be out travelling around by Zodiac boat and then in winter, you can be driving a Hagglunds at exactly the same spot over the frozen ocean. So it takes a bit to get your head around that as a medium.

[end transcript]

Expeditioner riding a quad bike in blowing snow.
Quad bikes are a popular mode of travel in Antarctica. (Photo: Doug McVeigh)
Hagglunds on fast ice at night.

Australian Antarctic expeditioners are at head office in Kingston, Tasmania, training for their season on the ice.

The team are learning about their new jobs, but also about how to live and travel in an extreme environment.

Australia’s three stations in Antarctica, are spread out across the Australian Antarctic Territory, which covers about 42 percent of Antarctica or nearly 5.9 million square kilometres.

“It’s a huge area that the Australian Antarctic Territory covers,” said Robb Clifton, Operations Manager at the Australian Antarctic Division.

“The distance between stations is equivalent to Melbourne to Brisbane, so it’s a long way.”

Getting around Antarctica has always been a challenge, from the steamships of Mawson’s era, the husky sledge teams until the 1990s, to giant C17 Globemasters landing on ice runways in the modern day.

“I reckon early explorers would be really jealous of the way we get around now, with GPS and heated cabins,” said Mr Clifton.

Travel between stations is by smaller planes such as Twin Otters and Basler BT-67s (Turbine DC-3), and is highly dependent on weather conditions.

“We are operating, obviously, in quite low temperatures, well below zero. And windy conditions as well and often with blown snow, which impedes visibility, which is pretty challenging for aircraft.”

In winter, the sea ice acts as a highway for expeditioners. They use quad bikes, skidoos and tracked Hägglunds to get out in the field.

“We have got very stringent routes that we get people to travel on using GPS, that we know are safe,” Mr Clifton said.

In summer, small boats like Inflatable Rigid Boats (IRBs) are the transport of choice.

“In the middle of summer you can be out travelling around by Zodiac boat and then in winter, you can be driving a Hägglunds at exactly the same spot over the frozen ocean. So it takes a bit to get your head around that as a medium.”