Four Pilots, 17+ Hours Plus Antarctica

The best way from Buenos Aires to Darwin is apparently via south Australia. Qantas flight QF14 “approached Australia from the south on Wednesday night, crossing the Great Australian Bight to then fly over the Red Centre to Darwin.” Traveller.com reports:

“The longest commercial flight in Qantas’ history landed in Darwin on Wednesday night after a route that took it from Buenos Aires over the coast of Antarctica on a near-18 hour long haul.

The repatriation flight was the return leg of a charter flight that carried Argentina’s rugby team home from Brisbane to Buenos Aires on Sunday after the 2021 Rugby Championship. The Department of Foreign Affairs were notified about the flight and worked with Qantas to use the returning plane to bring home Australians.

Flight QF14 took off from Buenos Aires at 12.44pm local time, 19 minutes behind schedule, but landed in Darwin five minutes early after a journey that took 17 hours, 25 minutes.”

With a view of Antarctica:

Captain Alex Passerini, Qantas’s chief technical pilot, said, “We’ll end up flying over the continent at around 73 or 74 south latitude, depending on the winds,” he said. “Hopefully the cloud cover will be kind to us and we can give our passengers a view.”

By comparison, in the north, 74 degrees north latitude crosses Novaya Zemlya in Siberia, here from Wikipedia:

Isolation

Going to be away from CS&W for much of next week, doing some work to fill in the Canada Gallery at EarthPhotos.com. The photos that are there now, from Pacific Canada, date back several years. We'reoff to take a look at the Atlantic side of the country. Still, there should be some short posts about anything interesting we encounter along the way.

In the meantime, enjoy two stories about really isolated places: First, where's the most isolated island in the world?

St. Helena was isolated enough to exile Napoleon, but not as isolated as this place. I might have guessed Tristan de Cunha, a little island administered by St. Helena. Or Kergueulen, which we've talked about before. The closest land to this place, though, is Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, 1,090 miles (1,750 km) away. Place your bets and click on through to the most remote island in the world.

And second, here's a story for you to enjoy from the comfort – and warmth – of your armchair. At least Douglas Mawson got a research station named after him.

The Things You Miss When You’re Away

Catching up on a few things, since we've been away:

– It seems that the archepelagic nation of Kiribati has bought 25 square kilometres on Viti Levu, the main Fijian island, in case, well, Kiribati disappears. Climate change insurance.

Nice piece from photographer Tim McKulka on the two Sudans. He spent five years traveling and taking pictures there. That's dedication.

– The closest land is Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, 1,090 miles (1,750 km) away. It's the most remote island in the world.

This looks pretty terrible, even outdoing Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World (which, by the way, is free on Kindle).

– Looks like the northern – and southern – lights were active while we were away from the internet in Cuba. It's hard to believe this photo is real.

Unsettling Weekend Reading

Prison

We've all done trips that were … less fabulous … than others. (Funny: Search "worst travel" on Amazon and the Lonely Planet guide to Ukraine comes in at number twelve.) Let's just say these are trips that involve more trials than, oh, losing your luggage. I can nominate my friend who had to have an emergency appendectomy in the Soviet Union in the mid-80's, for example. No, no, he didn't speak Russian.

Farther along on the scale, maybe, here's the Amazon description of the book The Worst Journey in the World: "hoping that the study of penguin eggs would provide an evolutionary link between birds and reptiles – a group of explorers left Cardiff by boat on an expedition to Antarctica. Not all of them would return. Written by one of its survivors, (this book) tells the moving and dramatic story of the disastrous expedition."

But the really worst worst trip might have been this one. Enjoy reading about it in front of your cozy, warm fireplace this weekend.

•••••

And then there's Cruise Passengers Overboard. Somebody out there has it in for mega-ships even more than me. They describe their site as "a comprehensive list of known cases of persons falling or jumping overboard since 1995. " This thing must take a lot of work. It's up to date as recently as seven days ago.

 

Adventure Travel Book Recommendation

NorthernlightsNot a review, because I've just begun this book, but here's a recommendation. Looks like this bookmay be fun. In preparation for a trip up above the Arctic Circle later this month, we're doing our diligence. There's not a great body of work on Lapland to be found. (The polar regions are better covered. Sara Wheeler has two books, Terra Incognito about the Antarctic and her newer, The Magnetic North: Notes from the Arctic Circle, which came out earlier this year to middling reviews.) There's also a chapter on Greenland in my book.

The Northern Lights is a nearly ten year old book (I'm reading the Kindle version). The author, Lucy Jago, opens with an 1899 scientific expedition into the Arctic Circle led by a Norwegian scientist named Kristian Olaf Birkeland. It's written in that breathless, play-by-play, you-were-there style, and it's really convincing. Can't say more at this point, until I've read a bit further, but right off the bat it conveys two key salient points about our upcoming adventure. Lapland in winter is dark. And cold. Here's how cold, at the moment.

Travel Links

A few interesting links today:

On North Korea:

Kingdom Kim's Culinary Outposts

Off the Dictated Path in North Korea

Elsewhere in Asia:

Pictures of Laos

China's dams killing Mekong

Fine headlines:

97-year-old butter found at Robert Scott's Antarctic base

Swedish envoy in Russian pantyhose probe

Missing Aussie found at pub

Sovereignty in the Arctic

Greenland2 Friday, the G7 met in Iqaluit, Nunavut, 63 degrees north latitude. Canada, as host, meant to make a point, serving delegates from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Japan caribou, seal meat and musk ox. 

“We are a product of our environment and we depend on our wildlife, whether it be seal or polar bear or caribou,” the Inuit health minister Leona Aglukkaq told delegates, according to the Financial Times.

Europeans, opposed to the slaughter of seals, were not entirely pleased. But it was a lesson in the changing politics of the far north.

“It’s one of our government’s priorities, the assertion of our sovereignty in the Arctic,” Canada’s Finance Minister said.

Books to read:

Who Owns the Arctic?: Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North by Michael Byers

After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic by Alun Anderson

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica by Sarah Wheeler

We hope to be able to report from Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway), at 78 degrees north latitude much farther north than Iqaluit, this August.

See our photos (so far) from the Arctic in the Greenland Gallery at EarthPhotos.com. And read our story, Chillin’ in Greenland.

(Photo from EarthPhotos.com.)

Arctic Travel Resources

Iceland Looking into possibilities for some Arctic travel this summer. Here’s the early stages of an expanding reading list:

Who Owns the Arctic?: Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North by Michael Byers

After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic by Alun Anderson

Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica by Sarah Wheeler

Some web resources:

Svalbard TourismCruise Handbook for Svalbard – Longyearbyen (capital of Svalbard) airport informationTromso, Norway flight informationWideroe Norwegian airlineFaroe Islands photographyFaroe Islands transportationThe Smyril ferry lineArctic Small Ship Cruises

And related:

Alaska bear viewing – The Northwest Passage (1, 2, 3) – Canadian polar bear tours – more here, including the aurora forecaster.

Prior to our August 2010 visit, our trips to the region have included Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The links are to their galleries at EarthPhotos.com.

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Christmas in Patagonia: A Story

Patagonia03

A band of freezing rain
swept over the Hotel Cabo de Hornos, turning the waters of the Strait of
Magellan dirty gray. Puerta Arenas’s “oldest and grandest” hotel was, well, it
was just a hotel. All of its walls were painted a determined mustard. A bare
minimum of staff kept the Cabo de Hornos open and we all watched cold squalls
spray over the strait.

The Pan American highway
stops at Puerto Montt, 816 miles of Chilean coastline to the north, so there
are no roads to get down here and there is little tourism, because you have to
be damned determined to get here.

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Feliz Navidad. Punta
Arenas was closed tight, for we came in on Christmas night.

*****

I think I snared the last
car for rent in southern Chile.

In the morning I stopped
for coffee and touched Magellan’s shiny toe (this was so destiny would bring me
back), on the plaza, then I found Hertz.

“Buenos dias. You have a
car?”

“No.”

A happy smile.

“If I go to aeropuerto?”

“No.”

I looked across the street.
“Budget?”

This “no” betrayed a smug
certainty, and at the same time a creeping regret that he wasn’t helping. He
allowed that I could always “ask the question” across the street at Budget and
furthermore, the man down the street at Santander might have uno auto. He
wouldn’t open until ten and it was scarcely 9:30. Still, that was something, so
I bid him and a man washing cars adios.

At Budget they had big
smiles but no cars.

“For today!?” He acted
amazed.

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End of the Earth: Extreme Southern Chile

Torres It’s hard to imagine how the nearly Antarctic tip of South America came to be known as Tierra del Fuego, or land of fire. It’s likewise hard to imagine being so far from home – so isolated – as Ferdinand Magellan and his crew were, sailing through appalling weather where nobody they’d ever heard of had been, five centuries ago. Especially when huge bonfires appeared onshore.

Tribes called Ona and Yaghan kept them constantly stoked for warmth. The Yaghan wore only the scantest clothing despite the cold.

Canoeists, adept at navigating the labyrinthine channels and tributaries around the straits, they hunted the sea and smeared fat over their bodies as protection from the wind and rain. As recently as 1834, on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin noted, “these people going about naked and barefoot on the snow."

The Ona lived across the strait, on the island I could see through the spray and mist. The books call them fierce warriors who adorned themselves with necklaces and bracelets of bone, shell and tendon, who hunted rats with bow and arrow, and who, wearing heavy furs and leather shoes, intimidated the bare-skinned Yaghan.

Darwin gave them their backhanded due, calling them “wretched lords of this wretched land.”

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