What It's Really Like To Experience Antarctica From The Air

Snow capped mountains in Antarctica

2.37min read

Published 9 March 2015


Featuring high on many traveller's bucket lists is a trip to Antarctica. So little is known about the world's largest continent that people are understandably keen to experience this vast, icy land first-hand.

There are two main ways to experience the continent; by scenic flight during summer months or on an expedition cruise from ports across Australia, New Zealand and South America.

My first visit to the ice continent was aboard a chartered Qantas 747-400ER flight from Adelaide. Antarctica Flights also offer flights from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Scheduled for 13 hours round trip we departed in the early hours of a Sunday morning with a heading of due south.

Antarctica flight map
Our Antarctica flight map.

Early morning glow at #adl #airport waiting for push back at Gate 20 for #Antarctica

A photo posted by tj747 (@tj747) on

It was four hours before we reached Antarctica itself but small icebergs and sheets of ice welcomed us along the way with their contrasting white ice against the deep blue Southern Ocean waters.

In command of our flight was a 30 year veteran Qantas pilot - Captain Rob Meek. This was Captain Meek's fifth Antarctica run and he informed us that a select pool of Qantas pilots were trained for the charter flights.

When I chatted with Captain Meek I asked how the flight would differ from his usual flying pattern.

"Normally when we do a trip we would take off from say Sydney and go to LA, it’s a similar time frame for the trip, between 12-14 hours, so those flights we fly to the best altitude we can economically, but these Antarctic ones we are obviously sightseeing so we actually descend, and descend to a very low level and fly around so people can see things and we have different procedures for doing that, so it’s very different to our normal day-to-day flying."

 Qantas pilot posing in the cockpit
Captain Meek was in charge of our flight to Antarctica.

Once over Antarctica we descended to around 1,500 feet from the ground for maximum viewing.  Our flight twist and turned over the icy landscape offering passengers fantastic views on both sides of the aircraft.

Onboard the flight were two Antarctic scientists who expertly commentated throughout the flight pointing out various landmarks and sights along the way. My expectations? A flat land of ice and if lucky we would catch a glimpse of an iceberg or a working station on the ground. What I actually experienced? So much more! I was constantly amazed and surprised at the ever changing landscape. This is baron land and the sheer size and extreme landscape kept me captivated for all four and a half hours we spent over the ice. The highest Antarctic mountain peak soars over 16,000 feet towards the sky. In comparison, the highest mountain in the world - Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - is just over 19,000 feet.  Add to this lakes (who knew Antarctica has lakes?!) inlets, icebergs and wide spread mountain ranges it makes for a beautiful introduction to Antarctica. Next on the list? An expedition cruise with plans already in motion! Enjoy these images from Antarctica.


One of my favourite pics from #Antarctica Huge mountain cliff tops dropping to the icy ocean below.

A photo posted by tj747 (@tj747) on

Snow covered cliff drop in Antarctica
Dramatic cliff tops dropping to the deep blue Southern Ocean below.
 Snow capped mountains in Antarctica
Antarctica mountain reflections.
 Snowy mountains in Antarctica
Antarctica's highest mountain soars over 16,000 feet high.
 Floating ice sheets in Antarctica
Sheets of ice and icebergs can drift up to 100km per day due to strong currents.
 Snowy mountain ranges in Antarcitca

Antarctica is filled with ever-changing landscapes and numerous mountain ranges.

antarctica qantas

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