Flying And Driving In Antarctica Looks Slow And Scary

Screenshot: Wendover Productions (YouTube)

Nobody set foot on Antarctica until 1895. Over a century later, the immense landmass is still hardly populated and not officially owned by any government. But paperwork and map lines aren’t what makes flying and driving there so hard. It’s the ridiculous, relentless cold.

This little video is a pretty interesting crash course on the complex logistics of Antarctica, including how planes land in snow (skis strapped to the bottom) and how they take off when it’s so cold (rockets strapped to the fuselage).


If a rocket-assisted ski-fitted LC-130 can’t make it to the Admunsen-Scott research facility near the middle of the continent, you can always take the highway. The road is actually a long strip of compacted snow from McMurdo station on the coast, and it takes 40 days for a tractor-pulling-cargo-on-skis to get from one end to the other.

Screenshot: Wendover Productions (YouTube)

Larger C-17 cargo jets come in from the rest of the world to bring people and supplies to Antarctica, landing either on runways made of compact snow like Phoenix Airfield, or on glacial ice (which apparently is more stable).

No planes are scheduled to land in Antarctica when it’s dark out. Since it’s dark 24 hours a day for seven months a year, that makes the residents of this lonely continent at the bottom of the Earth pretty isolated for a very long time.

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Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL