The Antarctic resupply vessel Aurora Australis will leave Hobart today with more than 100 expeditioners bound for Australia’s Davis and Mawson stations.

For some it is the beginning of a year-long stint. For others it’s a chance to do those science projects that can only be done during the summer months.

While Aurora Australis will go only as far as Davis station, personnel bound for Mawson will be flown there by Canadian Twin Otter aircraft — the first time the Australian Government’s Antarctic Division (AAD) has used these aircraft to ferry people between the two stations.

This is a precursor to future travel within Antarctica. When the AAD’s Air Transport system comes on line in the 2004/05 summer, two CASA 212–400 fixed wing aircraft will be used for intra-continental travel.

The AAD and Skytraders Pty Ltd signed a contract in June this year for the Sydney company to operate the CASA 212–400s within Antarctica to provide transport and field support for the Australian Antarctic Program.

The aircraft will be modified with additional external and internal fuel tanks providing the capability to cover greater distances.

To a large degree the AAD has relied on helicopters to ferry personnel from the stations into the field. And though they will still have a role, the ability of CASA 212–400s to fly greater distances carrying larger loads and to operate in adverse weather will allow greater flexibility.