On March 27th 2017 a chartered Air New Zealand Boeing 767 took off from Dunedin in New Zealand and headed south toward Antarctica. The eight hour flight’s origination and destination were to be the same airport but the flight itself, and the view, was the thing. How could a 767 night flight with 134 seats (selling for an average of about $2,500 each) and going nowhere sell out- in five days no less? No doubt you’ve heard of the Northern Lights- the Aurora Borealis. Well there is a similar phenomenon, known as the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis, that occurs in the Southern Hemisphere when conditions are right…and right the conditions were that night.
The seat math doesn’t quite work out does it? Simple enough…when you charter a jumbo jet just to look out the windows you don’t sell the center aisle seats. The 767 flew south to just over 60 degrees south latitude. This afforded the passengers / skygazers approximately five hours of uninterrupted Aurora viewing time. The organizers selected an evening close to the equinox and when the phase of the moon would allow for minimum lunar illumination. The Northern Lights are observed more often simply because more eyes are there to see them, but the Southern Lights are every bit as mesmerizing and memorable.
Bonus Video: Here’s what the Aurora Australis looked like from New Zealand