Transport in Antarctica

Transport in Antarctica has transformed from heroic explorers crossing the isolated remote area of Antarctica by foot to a more open area due to human technologies enabling more convenient and faster transport by land and predominantly air and water. Transportation technologies on a remote area like Antarctica need to be able to deal with extremely low temperatures and continuous winds to ensure the travelers' safety. Due to the fragility of the Antarctic environment, only a limited amount of transport movements can take place and sustainable transportation technologies have to be used to reduce the ecological footprint.The infrastructure of land, water and air transport needs to be safe and sustainable. Currently thousands of tourists and hundreds of scientists a year rely on the Antarctic transportation system.

Land transport

Land transport in Antarctica is usually by foot (skis, snowshoes) or vehicles (tracked vehicles like snow mobiles and bulldozers and in the past dog sleds).

Mawson station started using classic Volkswagen Beetles, the first production cars to be used in Antarctica. The first of these was named 'Antarctica 1'. However, the scarcity and poor quality of road infrastructure limits land transportation by conventional vehicles. Winds continuously blow snow on the roads. The McMurdo-South Pole highway is a 900-mile (1450 km) road in Antarctica linking the United States McMurdo Station on the coast to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Water transport

Antarctica's only harbour is at McMurdo Station. Most coastal stations have offshore anchorages, and supplies are transferred from ship to shore by small boats, barges, and helicopters. A few stations have a basic wharf facility. All ships at port are subject to inspection in accordance with Article 7, Antarctic Treaty. Offshore anchorage is sparse and intermittent, but poses no problem to sailboats designed for the ice, typically with lifting keels and long shorelines.
McMurdo Station (coord|77|51|S|166|40|E|), Palmer Station (coord|64|43|S|64|03|W|); government use only except by permit (see Permit Office under "Legal System"). A number of tour boats, ranging from large motorized vessels to small sailing yachts, visit the Antarctic Peninsula during the summer months (January-March). Most are based in Ushuaia, Argentina.

Air transport

Transport in Antarctica takes place by air, using airplanes and helicopters.Airplane runways and helicopter pads have to be kept snow free to ensure safe take off and landing conditions.

Antarctica has 20 airports, but there are no developed public-access airports or landing facilities. Thirty stations, operated by 16 national governments party to the Antarctic Treaty, have landing facilities for either helicopters and/or fixed-wing aircraft; commercial enterprises operate two additional air facilities.

Helicopter pads are available at 27 stations; runways at 15 locations are gravel, sea-ice, blue-ice, or compacted snow suitable for landing wheeled, fixed-wing aircraft; of these, 1 is greater than 3 km in length, 6 are between 2 km and 3 km in length, 3 are between 1 km and 2 km in length, 3 are less than 1 km in length, and 2 are of unknown length; snow surface skiways, limited to use by ski-equipped, fixed-wing aircraft, are available at another 15 locations; of these, 4 are greater than 3 km in length, 3 are between 2 km and 3 km in length, 2 are between 1 km and 2 km in length, 2 are less than 1 km in length, and data is unavailable for the remaining 4.

Antarctic airports are subject to severe restrictions and limitations resulting from extreme seasonal and geographic conditions; they do not meet ICAO standards, and advance approval from the respective governmental or nongovernmental operating organization is required for landing (1999 est.)


*"2,438 to 3,047 m:" 3
*"1,524 to 2,437 m:" 1
*"914 to 1,523 m:" 4
*"under 914 m:" 6 (2003 est.)

Heliports: 27 stations have restricted helicopter landing facilities (helipads) (2003 est.)

External links

* [http://www.hu.mtu.edu/~mmcooper/old%20homepage/classes/transport.html Transportation in Antarctica by Matt Hanks]
* [http://www.polar.se/english/logistics/transportation.html Webpage of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat on transportation]


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