Tag Archives: Flying

How to get to Antarctica by sea

If you’ve ever wondered how it is to reach Antarctica by the sea, here’s a story about it.

Giant flat iceberg and sea pack in Antarctica

If you are so lucky to have the possibility to visit Antarctica, the journey from your residence place to your Antarctic destination will be typically made of two distinct parts.
First you will reach a country in the southern hemisphere–like Argentina, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand–by commercial transportation.
Then you will fly or sail to Antarctica.

This article tells a story of how Antarctica is reached by the sea in the form of a navigation log. The source is first-hand, since I’ve written it myself during my first trip to Antarctica not long time ago.

This journey has started in Christchurch, New Zealand and has ended at Dumont D’Urville, Adelie Land, Antarctica.
Going from a civilized, temperate-climate region, to Antarctica is like traveling to another planet, especially if you don’t have any previous experience in a polar environment.
You see the world you are familiar with transforming into something else, something really, really different. That happens in the span of a few days.

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How to find Alitalia Flight 404 memorial

Present day.
I was going for I hike in a very good mood.
Now I’m sad.
What I’ve seen brought many memories back.

 

Twenty-three years ago.
I’m still in school.

46 people get up on an autumn’s morning. They have different lives, different nationalities and speak different languages. Some are men, some are women, some are rich while others are looking for a better life. Some are leaving their home, some are returning home. All different lives with only one thing in common: they’re all going to die soon, and they don’t know.

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A tale of Antarctica

A Twin Otter in Antarctica

We are sitting in the small plane. The seats are narrow and covered in coarse grey fabric. The runaway is an incline on the snow on an elevated glacier near Dumont D’Urville’s French base, in the Adelie Land, East Antarctica.

It is December 2007 and one of my biggest dreams in life has just come true. After years of work and wait, I’m finally in Antarctica. The previous day we jumped over the snow of the continent — for me it was the very first time — and we slept in a small base. Today, French fellas drove us uphill, to the runaway. From here we are looking at an astonishing panorama.

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Visiting Zagreb in search of a new conception of Croatia

After knowing Croatia only for the terrible events of the 1990s, it was time to get to know it for what it is today, in person.

Zagreb uptown

Zagreb uptown

Croatia is a beautiful country located in the Balkans, one of the several ones emerged from the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. Actually Croatia existed long before Yugoslavia itself, but only a small part of its history was marked by independence.
An important and long part of its past was under Austrian rule, and that reflects in Zagreb’s downtown appearance, which is characterized by beautiful Middle European atmosphere and architecture. Zagreb old uptown could easily be a neighborhood of Vienna or Prague, and its old streetcars crossing downtown are not so different from the ones you can find in Budapest or Bratislava.

Statue of Josip Jelačić in the middle of Trg bana Jelačića, Zagreb's central square

Statue of Josip Jelačić in the middle of Trg bana Jelačića, Zagreb’s central square

As for me, I had never been to Croatia until a few days ago, therefore the image about that country engraved in my mind was the one we all received from TV news during the 1990s: a country suffering war misery, its tanks facing enemy forces, and people hit with cluster bombs on the streets of Zagreb.
That’s the reason why I was twice as happy about visiting Croatia for the first time. Not only the city covered in snow introduced itself in the best possible way, but I also finally had a chance to get to know the country for its present, not only for its tough past.

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Voyager 1 Space Probe to be the first human artifact to reach the end of the Solar System

The Solar System Bubble, the Heliosphere, with Voyager 1 and 2 positions - Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Solar System Bubble, the Heliosphere, with Voyager 1 and 2 positions – Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Voyager 1 space probe, which instrumentation is still working 35 years after its launch, is now at a crucial point of its mission, as it is reaching the very edge of our region in space: the Solar System.

Voyager 1 distance and current position

Voyager 1, now distant 11 billion miles from our home-planet, is close to be the first human-made artifact to leave (forever) the bubble in space that we call Solar System and to which Earth belongs.

With its activity, the Sun changes physical and chemical properties of the space surrounding it. It emits radiation and particles and it has its own magnetic field. By measuring these things, scientists can state that a certain portion of the space within a certain distance from the Sun is typical of it, it’s belonging to it: it’s like a “Sun courtyard”.

But even the influence of the Sun decreases over distance, to evevtually vanish. Therefore, there is some place where particles and magnetic field from the Sun are no longer distinguishable from the ones typical of deep space.

Voyager 1 data

Since Voyager 1 has most of its instruments still working, it can measure those physical quantities and transmit them home.

Therefore, we know that this probe, launched in 1977 is now approaching the place where the Solar System vanishes into deep space.

In 2003, Voyager 1 already reached the zone where particles blown away from the Sun at the remarkable speed of 250 miles per second start slowing down. But during the last months something even bigger happened: those particles decreased sharply in quantity, while particles that fill up the interstellar deep space started to increase.

Well, you don’t need a PhD in Physics to realize what that implies. It’s just a matter of time, and Voyager 1 will by the only thing ever made by humans to sail in deep space.

However, researchers say that at this moment magnetic field’s orientation is indicating that the probe is still inside the Solar System. When MF orientation will change, then Voyager 1 will be definitely out. They believe that the final transition into interstellar space will occur in the following months. Two years tops.

Artist's rendering of Voyager 1 - Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s rendering of Voyager 1 – Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Further readings: the unexpected data

While the magnetic field direction is unchanged, its magnitude is increasing. That was totally unexpected. More on that here, or in Nasa’s website.

Voyager 1 picture of Earth : “The Pale Blue Dot”

The Pale Blue Dot is a photo taken by Voyager 1 in 1990, from a 3.7 billion miles distance. A pixel in the image, barely visible is the Earth. You can take a look at that here.

Voyager 1 launch

Here’s a video of the launch. It was September 5th, 1977

Voyager 1 is a machine made by humans, the clever apes that populate planet Earth, a small inner planet located inside one of the billions of stellar systems present in our Galaxy. Voyager space probe is now leaving that system and it is the first one.

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