There's an Airport Runway in Antarctica That's Made Entirely of Ice

By Erika Owen |
PARTNER TL ROSS ISLAND ANTARCTICA ICE RUNWAY FWX

© Aurora Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

In a world where anxiety-ridden descents are a dime a dozen, there are some pretty creative airplane landing situations. And if you thought the airport in St. Maarteen that causes airplanes to practically brush against beachgoers was scary, you haven't seen or experienced the ice-laden runways of Antarctica's McMurdo Station—a military base that's otherwise known as one of the main airports on the continent. Let's start off by saying that these runways are no more dangerous than any other runway—they just require a different skillset to maneuver.

McMurdo Station Runway Antarctica
Alamy Stock Photo

The ice that you see in these photos isn't the kind you'd find at a skating rink or your local lake after a particularly brisk winter's day. As Atlas Obscura breaks down, these runways are actually made of something called "white ice"—or 3- to 4-inches of incredibly compacted snow. With the unpredictable weather that is so common to Antarctica, experiencing these slippery runways isn't actually the most nerve-wracking part of the flight. The only aircrafts that are fit to land in conditions like this have what's been described as "ski-equipped landing gear." Some of the airplanes even have "jet-assisted takeoffs" to help them get in the air during especially rough winter conditions.

McMurdo Station Runway Antarctica
USAF/Getty Images

So the next time your flight is delayed because of "icy runway conditions," remember that there's a runway in Antarctica that depends on 3- to 4-inches of the cold stuff.

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