The largest plane ever to attempt a mission to Antarctica, the planet’s coldest, driest and windiest continent, has made a successful landing, delivering essential supplies to scientists on the frozen continent.
Everglades on ice
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, known as “Everglades” was a long way from the tropical wilderness it is named for. It landed in Antarctica on Wednesday, 15 November, 2023 at 2:01 am local time, on Troll Airfield’s 3,300 metre by 100 metre blue ice runway. Blue ice is formed on top of glaciers, from snow becoming compacted and merging with the glacier over time.
A historic moment for Norse✈️The first ever @BoeingAirplanes B787 Dreamliner to land in Antarctica! We are incredibly honoured to be a part of this piece of history, marking a very special milestone for Norse. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Norwegian Polar… pic.twitter.com/i2V1ZQZFAe— Norse Atlantic Airways (@flynorse) November 16, 2023
Footage of the landing, which took place in bright sunlight thanks to the midnight sun at the height of summer at the south pole, is impressive. The colossal white and blue liveried aircraft touches down in perfect conditions on the groomed glacier, chased by a white plume.
The event appears remarkably graceful for an already heavy craft, carrying 12 tons of “essential research equipment and supplies”. The ultimate destination for those, and for most of the 45 passengers on board, would be the Norwegian Polar Institute, situated just under 7km from the air strip.
The most crucial aspect is the environmental gain we can achieve by using large and modern aircraft of this type for Troll.Camilla Brekke, Norwegian Polar Institute Director
“Landing such a large aircraft opens up entirely new possibilities for logistics at Troll, which will also contribute to strengthening Norwegian research in Antarctica,” said Camilla Brekke, the Institute’s director, in a statement.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to take such an enormous craft into such a fragile environment, the bigger the plane, the more it can carry and deliver to Antarctica in one trip, meaning fewer missions are necessary and fewer emissions overall, reducing “the environmental footprint in Antarctica,” Brekke added. What’s more, Dreamliners emit 25% less CO2 and are 50% quieter than the previous generation of aircraft.
“Spirit of exploration”
Norse Atlantic operated the flight, which was hailed by the carrier’s Chief Executive, Bjørn Tore Larsen, as “momentous”. “We have achieved together a momentous moment of landing the first 787 Dreamliner,” his statement read. “In the spirit of exploration, we are proud to have a hand in this important and unique mission.”
Norse now have 13 Dreamliners, which can usually carry up to 330 passengers. All are named for National Parks worldwide. Having left two days earlier from Oslo, Norway, “Everglades” went first to Cape Town. It lay over for 40 hours in South Africa’s oldest city, before embarking towards the Antarctic and then returning without needing to refuel.