First US Flight Since May Lands in Antarctica

It's the only continent still virus-free
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 14, 2020 4:57 PM CDT
After 6-Week Quarantine, Americans Fly to Antarctica
Staff board a US Air Force C17 as they prepare to take the season's first flight to McMurdo Station in Antarctica from Christchurch Airport, New Zealand, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The first US flight into Antarctica following months of winter darkness arrived Monday with crews taking extra precautions to keep out the coronavirus. Antarctica is the only continent without the virus, and there is a global effort to make sure incoming scientists and workers don’t bring it with them. The US Air Force flight left Monday from the gateway city of Christchurch carrying 106 passengers and crew, said Tony German, the US Antarctic program's representative in New Zealand. He said the new arrivals will start getting ready for the summer and swap out with skeleton crews who have spent the Southern Hemisphere winter in Antarctica, the AP reports. The flight was delayed for three weeks by big storms, resulting in an extended six-week quarantine for those aboard.

German said the crews were first isolated in San Francisco for four days and then spent another five weeks isolated in New Zealand, undergoing several virus tests along the way. Upon their arrival at McMurdo Station, the facility entered Code Yellow, meaning everybody will wear masks for two weeks. “We are being meticulous to ensure nothing happens,” German said. If the virus was to break out at the station, he said, they have protocols in place to test and isolate anybody who is infected. Officials say unusual teamwork among the US, China, Russia and other countries took place this year to ensure they keep the virus out. All are planning reduced numbers at their stations. The number of people at McMurdo is set to peak at 450 this summer, about one-third the usual.

(More Antarctica stories.)

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