Field operations

transport and support activities

scott base transportAntarctica New Zealand's Operations team plans all transport and support activities for the groups we support in Antarctica. This includes overland and air transport in and out of the field, equipment and set up of field camps, communication systems (radio and Iridium phone) back to Scott Base and specialist clothing, equipment and field instructors who can help complete the teams objectives.

Field Camps

Field parties, equipped with the correct clothing and a balanced diet, need to ensure their living accommodation is equally well designed. They use specially designed polar tents, fitted with a separate groundsheet, made to withstand high winds and wind-driven ice particles. A warm night's sleep is ensured by using a thick Thermorest mattress and two appropriately rated sleeping bags.

Field parties may camp up to a hundred days in an Antarctic summer. The weather dictates how much work can be accomplished. The most demanding conditions are associated with high winds or with whiteout conditions. Whiteout is a time of complete cloud cover at low altitude possibly with snow. In whiteout there is no detail in the snow or cloud, crevasses and the horizon are both invisible, so it is dangerous to be moving into unknown territory. By contrast, in high winds, snow drifts near the ground, and a combination of wind-driven snow and wind-chill can make it difficult to collect scientific samples. Such days are best spent "lying up" and working within the safety of the tent. In periods of good weather during the continuous daylight of midsummer field parties may work around the clock to compensate for time spent lying up.


Antarctica New Zealand has a number of policies and procedures in place to ensure the safety of all people supported by the programme, whether they are at Scott Base or out in the field. All event personnel are also given a "Think Safety" notebook to thelp them identify any critical issues and control methods to put in place.  Some key procedures include:

  • always signing out when you leave the base. The signout book is regularly checked by the communications operators who will initiate search procedures if a person is overdue;
  • setting radio schedule times for field parties and people who are travelling away from the base on day expeditions. Radio skeds are at set times and missed skeds may result in a search and rescue team being deployed;
  • always taking or wearing the correct survival clothing when away from the immediate area of the base. Weather in Antarctica can change quickly and being prepared at all times may save your life;
  • marking and regularly checking safe vehicle and walking routes. These routes are marked by coloured flags, while areas of potential danger are marked by black flags. These areas may contain sea ice cracks, crevasses or hazards such as fuel lines;
  • Antarctic Field Skills (AFS) which is completed by all people travelling to Antarctica with the New Zealand Programme. This course teaches awareness of the environment and how to recognise potential dangers. A full course is undertaken every three years with a refresher course in intervening seasons.


A variety of transport methods are used to transport people and equipment in Antarctica. Transport types include:

  • Traverse/field tracked vehicles:
    • Cat D6H, Cat D4G
    • Personnel carriers: Hagglunds BV206 All-Terrain Tracked vehicle
    • Kassbohrer PistenBully 300
    • Kassbohrer Pistenbully 100
  • Snowmobiles:
    • Scandic super-wide trac
  • Operational support vehicles:
    • ATVs: 4x4 Yamahas
    • Wheeled loaders:  Cat 926E, Merlot tele-handler
    • Toyota hi-lux utility
    • Toyota Landcruiser Troop-carriers and flat-deck
    • Isuzu FTS650 4x4 truck

Helicopter travel in AntarcticaIDE rugged up

Antarctica New Zealand currently contracts Southern Lakes Helicopters (SLH) to provide flight services within Antarctica. SLH provide an AS350 B3 (Aeorospatial Squirrel rego ZK IDE) helicopter.  Helicopter travel must adhere to strict environmental regulations which prohibit flights over protected areas and provide guidelines for landing close to animals.