Antarctica to be a scheduled air stop
Published: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 10:56 p.m.
Antarctica, one of the last great tourism frontiers, is becoming more accessible with the advent of twice-weekly commercial flights from Argentina. A revamped cargo plane operated by the Argentine air force is scheduled to begin service from Ushuaia, on the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego, to the country's scientific base at Seymour Island (called Marambio by the Argentinians) 600 miles to the south. The 70 passengers on the Hercules C130 will take a three-hour tour of Antarctica.
The excursion's $630 price includes an orientation dinner in Ushuaia as well as the flights, with a champagne toast when crossing the 60-degree south latitude into the internationally protected territory of Antarctica. Once on Seymour Island, in the Weddell Sea, passengers will take an easy ice trek with English-speaking guides, followed by a light lunch. Three hours later, they will reboard for the two-and-a-half-hour flight back to Ushuaia.
Until now, the only way for most tourists to reach the continent was by sea, on a private yacht or one of the few dozen luxury cruises that pass by every southern summer while circumventing the tip of South America. A record 15,000 tourists visited Antarctica in 2001, about the same number that came during the entire 1980s. Although Qantas has offered scenic flyovers of the South Pole periodically since 1979, the Argentine venture is the first to land tourists on the continent by air on a regular noncharter basis.
The excursion is organized by Aerored, a Buenos Aires-based travel company, in association with the Argentine air force's commercial airline, Lineas Aereas del Estado, or LADE. Flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia via LADE or another domestic carrier cost around $250 round trip. From Ushuaia it's also possible to fly to other popular destinations in Patagonia. For more information, call (54-11) 4328-1923; or visit www.aerored es.com.ar.
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