After a year of delay and disruption local company, Viva Expeditions has once again wowed guests onboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, that flew south into the sub-Antarctic region in search of the Auroral oval.
Around 250 guests onboard enjoyed an outstanding show lasting around seven hours, with the Aurora dancing in the sky as the plane was surrounded by colours intensified by ideal Aurora spotting conditions. Dr. Ian Griffin, Astronomer & Director of the Otago Museum has flown ten times to see the Aurora and says this was the best yet. "It was by far the best flight I have been on in terms of the variety of auroral forms we saw and the incredible dynamics of the ever-changing display,” he says.
“The colours were outstanding, we saw greens, pinks, and purples even with the naked eye. And through the camera the neon colours lit up the sky” comments Rachel Williams, Founder and Managing Director of Viva Expeditions. “It has been a hard year, with six flights having to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 so getting this plane up has been beyond awesome.”
The day began in the afternoon with a pre-flight mission at the International Antarctic Centre where guests enjoyed presentations by Dr. Ian Griffin of Otago Museum & Miranda Sattherswaite, the Antarctic Academic director, to gain an understanding about the phenomenon of the Southern Lights. Guest then enjoyed a tour of the Antarctic Centre followed by drinks and nibbles and the chance to take part in a photography workshop, where Astro-photographers were on hand to give people tips for capturing the Aurora and help them adjust their camera settings prior to flying.
Arriving at the airport for check-in at 5 pm, guests enjoyed a welcome drink, and the atmosphere was vibrant, the excitement was growing at every moment. Departing at 7 pm and heading south the meal service was still underway when the Aurora could be seen clearly outside the plane, thus passengers scrambled to finish their meals, and then the magic really began.
All the lighting inside and outside of the plane was turned off, leaving passengers in almost full darkness. This allowed the eyes to adjust and then the Aurora truly came to life. All through the night we navigated through the most active areas of Aurora, at times completely engulfed in the magical light show, meanwhile, the stars shone brightly in the night sky. “We could see the constellations and the milky way as a perfect backdrop to the flares of the Aurora” says Williams “The curve of the earth was clearly visible, and the colours of the Aurora reflected in the clouds far below. It really could not have been any better”.
Viva Expeditions now has its sights on future flights. Two flights are available in September 2022 but are filling up fast, and 2023 dates are also available and selling well. “The demand is huge and keeps growing!” says Williams. “At this stage, all of the passengers have been Kiwis, but moving forward Viva expects that many people will come to New Zealand from overseas for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Aurora from 40,000 feet above sea level. Truly an experience like no other.
In addition, Viva is excited to resume the core of its operations which is travel to Latin America and Antarctica. “We have seen huge demand for Antarctica as people now look to tick off their big bucket list items, and Kiwis are also booking trips to visit Machu Picchu Peru, the Galapagos Islands, and many of Latin America's other top destinations. We are finding that Kiwis are investing more in their trips, wanting trips that are intimate, environmentally friendly, community focussed, and designed to offer a real connection with the cultures and landscapes in which they are travelling”. concludes Williams.
For more about Southern Lights by Flight and Viva Expeditions visit www.vivaexpeditions.com