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Antarctic adventure

A group of eight from Melbourne Bearbrass Probus Club saw in the New Year in spectacular fashion. They downed champagne as their Boeing 787 Dreamliner circled the smoking Mt Erebus crater in the Antarctic, brilliantly lit by the midnight sun.

The party was organised and led by retired IT executive Mike “Spike” Sparkes. Three other members of the one-year-old Bearbrass Club booked in, plus two spouses and two friends. Despite the formidable expense of the Melbourne round trip from 5:30pm to 7:30am, they all said it was worth it.

“We got four hours of low-level cruising along the iceberg-studded coast and into inland mountain ranges and white wilderness,” Spike said.

The Dreamliner, piloted by veteran Qantas pilot Lisa Norman, operated almost like a light plane, following paths of massive glaciers and traversing valleys and mountain ranges in the vastness of the continent – twice the size of Australia.

Said Bearbrass secretary Sue Hoile, “As we circled the Erebus volcano, I was overawed by its size and beauty. It was completely covered in ice, yet pouring out steam and CO2.

“The naked valleys of bare rocks were a landform standing out black and brown amid the whiteness. Those valleys have no ice or snow yet are surrounded by ice. The sea ice also comes in an amazing range of formations, each with its specific name and beauty.

 “We actually flew over a very small part of the immense mass. I have a greater understanding of the challenges faced by early explorers and the Australians now working at the research stations.”

Spike Sparkes is himself a light-plane pilot and studied the Dreamliner’s elaborate flight plan. He said, “I tried to join a summer expedition as a kid finishing uni but they only wanted experienced scientists or builders, drivers and tradies. No room for freshman engineers!

“Twenty years later, a friend joined a small group on a chartered sailing boat from Tierra del Fuego, but I was too late to get a bed. So, the New Year’s flight for me fulfilled my lifetime goal.”

Bearbrass, now with 60 members, welcomes enquiries to [email protected] or website,