Is seeing the world-famous Southern Lights phenomenon in your bucket record? The Aurora Australis—additionally known as the Southern Lights—is the southern cousin of the Northern Lights. To witness this breathtaking spectacle, you would wish to go as far south as Tasmania—however even then, the possibility of seeing the Southern Lights is spotty at greatest, with solely a 1-2% probability on any given evening.
For individuals who need to be sure that they’ll see the Aurora’s spectacular gentle present, Rachel Williams of EO New Zealand has the answer. Rachel and her firm, Viva Expeditions, created a service known as Southern Lights by Flight. It flies friends from Christchurch, New Zealand down towards Antarctica and thru the Auroral zone and again—multi function unforgettable evening!
We requested Rachel about Southern Lights by Flight. Right here’s what she shared:
Is it true that Southern Lights by Flight was your Covid pivot?
Sure. Pre-Covid, we specialised solely in journey to Latin America and Antarctica. The pandemic was a horrible time as all enterprise ceased, adopted by repatriation, refunds, redundancies and just about each cost-cutting factor we may do apart from full hibernation. We would have liked to do one thing to generate income till worldwide journey resumed and Southern Lights by Flight was our answer. Not solely have we crammed the hole, we now have additionally created a high quality sustainable product that can proceed into the longer term.
Is your organization the one one providing this distinctive alternative?
We created the service and are the one ones operating it in New Zealand. I reached out to an astronomer who I knew had organised the same expertise for his pals and followers however it had by no means been commercialised. I requested him to assist me, and he agreed. So we went to the airline, chartered the aircraft, and introduced our personal astronomy group onboard to help the pilots with navigation.
Our enterprise companions in Australia subsequently launched related flights. Nevertheless ours is totally different in that:
- New Zealand is additional south than Australia, so it takes us much less time to achieve the energetic Auroral zone, and we will keep there for much longer. We’ve got an unique contract with Air New Zealand, so replication just isn’t attainable right now.
- The Worldwide Antarctic Centre is positioned subsequent to the airport in Christchurch. We’ve got enhanced our friends’ expertise by together with an inspiring pre-flight mission the place individuals study from astronomers and NASA educators concerning the Aurora and may be a part of pictures classes previous to the flight. (See our friends’ in-flight pictures in our Fb Group.)
What challenges did you overcome round organizing flights to see the Aurora?
- We coordinated with Greenpeace—they fearful about pointless burning of carbon—so we now have a radical carbon offsetting programme in place.
- We had some upset households of the Erabus catastrophe (when a aircraft stuffed with New Zealanders crashed into Mt. Erabus in Antarctica 43 years in the past). We don’t go to Antarctica however there was nonetheless a variety of push again.
- We’ve got handled plane availability restrictions, rescheduling flights as a result of Covid lockdowns, and navigating continually altering guidelines about gathering sizes, vaccination standing, and so on.
- We needed to reschedule eight flights as a result of Covid lockdowns and have managed to get three away, with a lot of individuals nonetheless ready for upcoming flights.
- We’ve got executed all of it with a group of 4 (we have been 14 pre-Covid)
Although there aren’t any issues of safety round flying by the Aurora, we additionally handle issues like:
- All cabin lights are turned off when within the Auroral zone, so we offer everybody with a purple gentle torch that permits them to see with out impacting their evening imaginative and prescient.
- We’ve got particular permission to show off the aircraft’s outdoors security lights (wingtips and roof lights), however that is executed on the premise that there aren’t any different planes inside 3,000km of us on the time of flying.
How are you rising environmental consciousness?
At our pre-flight mission on the Antarctic Centre, we do an amazing presentation concerning the surroundings and the way essential Antarctica is in environmental safety and the work being executed by aerospace specialists within the area. We discover that individuals who have a ardour for Antarctica usually tend to assist shield it, so we intention to remodel our friends into Antarctic ambassadors.
What does the overall expertise entail?
The flights itself is 10 hours, departing Christchurch at 7pm and returning to Christchurch at 5am. So principally it’s:
- 3pm – Worldwide Antarctic Centre pre-flight mission expertise
- 5pm – Test-in and welcome drinks
- 7pm – Boarding
- Dinner on the aircraft earlier than all lights are turned off and Aurora viewing begins
- Numerous enjoyable all through the evening, roughly 6 hours of Aurora viewing
- 3am – The lights come on for breakfast
- 5am – The aircraft lands and everybody disembarks feeling drained however utterly thrilled
What entrepreneurial classes have you ever discovered from this expertise?
- To suppose outdoors the field.
- The best way to market with a zero greenback advertising finances.
- How essential it’s to take care of your self with a view to run a profitable enterprise.
- How essential relationships are, and why working collaboratively is commonly a greater method than straight out competitors.
What’s subsequent for you?
I’m going to Antarctica in November, so I launched a MyEO journey to see who wished to affix me. I now have 66 EO members coming onboard—which is fabulous.
We’ve got simply launched a 2023 Epic Antarctica MyEO Occasion and can have two very particular friends becoming a member of us: Professor Mike Stroud OBE, the primary man to stroll unsupported throughout Antarctica and the Proper Honourable Sir John Key, former New Zealand prime minister and businessman.