Our two sons have been living in Australia since May 2010 and January 2011 respectively. That implies of course that we have been flying many times between South Africa and Australia.
The outbound flight is a reasonable comfortable 11 hour night flight from Johannesburg to Sydney: you fly out in the evening and arrive in the afternoon the following day. Although the hours don’t tally up to a normal 24 hour day/night cycle, it feels kinda normal. The return flight however is 14 hours (because of trade-winds we fly much more south) and because you fly anti clockwise, passengers are advised to close all the window blinds after the first food service. Since you’ve been up since early morning the crew wants to “speed up” the feeling of having had a full day and encourage bedtime for everyone. So most of our flights we have indeed closed the window blinds as requested and either binge-watched-movies or slept.
A few years ago (2015) however not everyone paid attention to the request and window blinds were opened. There was an exciting buzz and everyone got curious about what was happening. It was only when we saw how passengers in the other aisle were hanging over chairs and other passengers to catch a glimpse out of the windows, that we also opened our blind and got the surprise of our life: we were flying over the South Pole!
It was amazing! You are so close – as a matter of speaking of course – that you feel you can see seals sleeping in the sun or whales breaching the ocean at any given moment. We weren’t that lucky though. But we could still feast our eyes on the ice fields and broken sea ice floating in the ocean.
It was an amazing feeling! This may possibly be the closest we will ever come to the South Pole in real live. It’s one thing to see photographs of Antarctica, it’s a total different experience to see this landscape with our own eyes.
Since then we have the habit of keeping an eye on the in-flight monitors to track the flight route. Sometimes the flight doesn’t go as far south, and sometimes we possibly indeed fall asleep, and then we miss out. After that first time in 2015, we saw the South Pole again on our return from Australia this year (2020). By then I had a slightly better camera and we were better prepared to take photos. It’s fascinating and most probably always will be!