The first flight of Australia’s Antarctic summer season for 2021-22 has landed at the blue ice runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, after departing from Hobart early this morning.

The initial cohort of 28 expeditioners travelled by Airbus A319 to east Antarctica 3400 kilometres from Tasmania, about 70 kilometres inland from Casey research station.

Most will spend the summer at Casey station or Wilkins Aerodrome, with some staying on over winter to work at Casey or Australia’s other stations Mawson and Davis.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the flight marks the start of an ambitious season with three ships and a range of aircraft being used to support expeditions.

“As this year’s season swings into action, I wish all of our Antarctic expeditioners a safe and productive time on our stations, and thank them for their service.”

“To the expeditioners completing their tours of duty and returning home, my admiration to you and your families for your dedication and commitment,” said Minister Ley.

General Manager of Operations & Safety at the Australian Antarctic Division, Charlton Clark, said today’s return flight between Hobart and Wilkins is the first of 17 planned up to March next year.

“The 2021-2022 summer season will see about 500 expeditioners travel south to undertake research or support our scientists as part of the Australian Antarctic Program.”

“This season will also see the return of flights of ski equipped aircraft between our stations and deep into the interior of Antarctica,” Mr Clark said.

Expeditioners travelling south need to be fully vaccinated before transiting on ships and planes to Australian Antarctic stations and field camps.

Prior to going south, expeditioners spent at least two weeks in isolation in Hobart, with multiple COVID-19 tests before departure.