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Antarctic Festival 2008 starts

25 September 2008

The United States Air Force's humungous C-17 Globemaster III airlifter will carry out a city approach over Christchurch when the Christchurch Antarctic Festival begins tomorrow.

Depending on the weather and aircraft traffic the C-17 aircraft is planning to fly over Clearwater towards Sumner, turning back and heading West over the city to the Christchurch International Airport when it flies in from Pago Pago, American Samoa.

The flyover is expected between 3 pm and 4 pm and the aircraft will maintain a minimum safe altitude directed by air traffic control but it is expected to be between 1,000-2000 feet, says Kerry Chuck, Manager NZ Operations for the US Antarctic Program.

The $US220 million C-17, capable of 830 km/h with a range of 4,482 km, is the prime mover supporting the air bridge between Christchurch and the US McMurdo Base on Antarctica.

"The flight into Christchurch signifies the start of another season of scientific research in Antarctica," says Laurence Potter, Events Production Coordinator with the Christchurch City Council. New Zealand has a close working relationship with the US Antarctic Program - which has a base in Christchurch - including several joint projects.

The mission commander for the C-17, Lt. Col. James McGann recently completed a successful night landing on Antarctica using night-vision goggles, giving the Antarctic programme the potential for more frequent flights, shorter stays for personnel during winter and the capability to undertake a medical evacuation.

The 16 metre high and 53 metre long aircraft will be present at Ice-Capade at the International Antarctic Centre over the weekend, and open to public viewing between 10 am to 4 pm each day.

In another highlight of the Festival, Christchurch will celebrate its connection to the Antarctic with a live video connection to Scott Base on Antarctica on Friday.

The live video conferencing link at Our City O-Tautahi will allow Christchurch residents to participate in a question and answer sessions with several technicians and researchers at New Zealand’s outpost on the continent.

During lunch the junior choir from St Martins School will entertain Scott Base personnel with three songs and then ask questions about things Antarctic. The Cobham School children - who created the Antarctic Festival's "Big Bergs" exhibition at the same venue - will also be attending; to follow up on their learning about great Antarcticans with a face-to-face session with the people on the ice.

The Live Link programme at Our City O-Tautahi will use a Telecom ISDN connection and the Brand Bubble, a giant snowball screen, for the public in Christchurch to talk to Scott Base in real time. Scott Base staff will participate in three separate sessions from 11.30 am until 1.30 pm to field questions from the public, school children and tertiary students.

Lyttelton, which has seen off numerous expeditions to the continent, hosts a number of events on Friday evening under the “Lyttelton on Ice” programme, including “Ice Happy Hour” and the “Farewell Menus” at the Mitre Hotel.

The weekend programme starts with the big family day at the International Antarctic Centre and Christchurch International Airport with the Festival’s Ice-Capade programme. Previously held at Wigram Airport, this year’s Ice-Capade offers a more intimate approach to Antarctica.

The public will be able to experience what it is like for personnel as they prepare for the summer on the ice. “It is a real ‘get up close and personal’ type of experience we are offering this time,” says Jo Blair, Events Development Manager with the Christchurch City Council.

Antarctic fashion and equipment displays, the popular Hagglund challenge and tours of the C-17 and RNZAF’s Orion airplane are part of the packed weekend programme.


The Christchurch Antarctic Festival is coordinated by the Christchurch City Council and members of Antarctic Link Canterbury. The festival runs from Friday 26 September to Friday 3 October and includes a wide range of Films, Lectures, Live links, Exhibitions, Tours and the Antarctic Ice-Capade at Christchurch International Airport and the International Antarctic Centre.

For full programme details, please check our website


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