Australian expeditioners have traditionally travelled to Antarctica by ship – about five voyages are made every summer to the Antarctic, Macquarie Island and sometimes Heard Island. Australia also has an air link, which has reduced the time needed to be spent in transit for some expeditioners.
Since 1990, the Aurora Australis has been the major cargo and passenger carrier as well as Australia's Southern Ocean marine research platform.
It is chartered from its owners, P&O Polar Australia, by the Australian Antarctic Division, and its home port is Hobart. Voyages are made during the warmer months, from October to April, to the Antarctic and Macquarie Island (and in some years to Heard Island). Each year between 300 and 400 Australians travel south, with about 8,000 cubic metres of general cargo and 1.9 million litres of fuel to sustain the stations. In 2007, the airlink between Hobart and Wilkins runway (near Casey station) was launched. Further information on the airlink is available on the AAD website.
- Show students the shipping schedule for the current season. Ask students to plot the voyage track on the Australia to the Australian Antarctic Territory map [PDF]. Then show them the actual voyage tracks. Discuss reasons why the actual tracks are so far from the shore.
- Ask the students to identify the hazards for shipping and for aircraft operating in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.
Issue – flying to Antarctica
Many scientists have long complained that it takes too long to get to Antarctica. It can take two weeks or more to get to Antarctica by ship, while the new air link means travel to Antarctica can take only five hours. How does the airlink between Australia and Antarctica affect the way science is done there?