Antarctica Sightseeing Flights: The Cold Truth

Melting minds.

Image: The Sun

News recently broke Antarctica Flights will soon again offer Australians day trips to see Antarctica from the sky.

The privately chartered flights will run from November, with flights departing Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne.

Labelled “the world’s most unique scenic flight”, Antarctica Flights take place on Qantas 787 Dreamliners, and last between 12 and 13 hours.

As the traditional way of experiencing Antarctica involves flying to the southern tip of South America (and then getting on an emissions heavy cruise ship), on first glance Antarctica Flights is an ’emissions easy’ way to see the icy continent.

To some degree it is (not to mention, it’s no different than any other flight of the same distance 99% of us will happily – and regularly – make to visit other countries to go on holiday).

But Dr Matthew Stocks, an ANU research fellow with more than 20 years of research and development experience in renewable energy, has told DMARGE that just because Antarctica Flights may pollute less than a cruise, if you’re taking the Greta Thunberg approach, they’re still not perfect.

“Neither are a great way to travel!”

Dr Stocks points out that cruise company Carnival reports 251g of CO2 per average lower berth passenger per km.

Assuming every cabin has two occupants, Dr Stocks says “travelling by boat to Antarctica from Dunedin in NZ [with Carnival] would be around 5400km, so a couple would produce 2.7 tonnes of CO2.”

“This is about the emissions of the average new car (180gCO2/km) driving 15000km (slightly above the average distance per car).”


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The Qantas Dreamliner (787), on the other hand “uses at least 5.11 kg/km” Dr Stocks tells us,
“with an emissions intensity of 3.1 kgCO2/kg fuel.”

“This should result in 0.8 tonnes of direct CO2 emissions for 2 passengers (I am only counting the plane is flying from Dunedin as you would have to get to the start of the cruise somehow).”

“The challenge with planes is that they have other impacts than the direct carbon emissions due to the use of jets in the upper atmosphere. A weighting factor of about 2.7 is usual. You then end up with more that 2.0 tonnes of CO2,” Dr Stocks adds.

“My suggestion – jump on a train and tour Australia instead!!!”

Make sense but… you’re still hanging to see Antarctica? Antarctica Flights have an emissions offset program (every flight is carbon neutral), which may help give you peace of mind.

Through certified carbon credits purchased under the Gold Standard, Antarctica Flights contribute to projects that not only provide positive benefits to the climate, but also achieve social and economic ‘co-benefits’.

Antarctica Flights claim to be committed to protecting our planet, and their mission is to leave Antarctica’s pristine landscape the way they found it.

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