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Sun heralds big year for NZ in Antarctica

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/08/2016

A sign outside Scott Base, New Zealand's research facility near Mount Erebus, Ross Island, Antarctica. © Galen Rowell/ Getty Images A sign outside Scott Base, New Zealand's research facility near Mount Erebus, Ross Island, Antarctica. The first sunrise over Antarctica signals a big summer season for New Zealand, which will mark 60 years of research there.

The sun rose for the first time over the horizon on August 20, a welcome indicator of summer for the 11 people wintering over on Scott Base, New Zealand's research station.

Winter's not the ordeal it used to be because flights in April, June and July occurred for the first time this year after successful trials last year.

A flight to Antarctica on Saturday didn't go because of bad weather but when it happens it'll mark the start of the "winfly" schedule.

It will be the first flight south with passengers preparing for the new summer research season, which starts on October 3.

Winfly includes three Airbus and two C17 flights during the next week.

"The 2016-17 Antarctic research season is particularly important to New Zealand as it signifies 60 years since the construction of Sir Edmond Hillary's trans-Antarctic expedition hut, the original Scott Base," says Peter Beggs, Antarctica New Zealand's chief executive.

"This also highlights the beginning of New Zealand's presence and leadership on the ice."

The Antarctic Heritage Trust will on Monday launch a major fundraising campaign to save the legacy in Antarctica associated with Sir Ed, the conqueror of Mt Everest.

It's a lot busier than when he led expeditions there.

In total, 200 people will be heading south this summer as part of the New Zealand effort.

"The usual gear is heading south to get the season up and running, including a lot of stuff to support the Hillary Field Centre construction project," says Paul Woodgate, Antarctica New Zealand's logistics manager.

The first winfly flight carries spare parts to finish off the winter works programme, and the team are keen to get their "freshies" and mail.

The official season opening events, which include a civic reception, a wreath-laying ceremony and a church service, happen in Christchurch, New Zealand's gateway to Antarctica, on the weekend of September 30.

Scott Base is located on Ross Island in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica.

The Antarctic mainland is 70 km across McMurdo Sound from Scott Base.

The closest neighbour to Scott Base is the American base, McMurdo Station, 3km away.

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