Sharks may have to swim
Story by: The Nelson Mail - Photo by: Marc Palmano - Shuttersport
A cloud of doubt hangs over whether South African Super Rugby team the Sharks will get to New Zealand tonight en route to their game in Nelson, as Qantas keeps all trans-Tasman flights grounded.
The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said today the ash from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in Chile will again blanket New Zealand by this afternoon, and was expected to remain over the country for several days. Qantas had this morning suspended all trans-Tasman services until further notice. Jetstar has cancelled all trans-Tasman flights and domestic New Zealand flights until at least midday.
The Sharks were this morning in transit from South Africa to Sydney, where they were due to arrive at 3pm today.
They were scheduled to take a Qantas flight to Wellington tonight, Tasman Rugby Union operations manager Mike Kerrisk said.
Excitement is building in Nelson as the South Africans wing their way to face the Crusaders at Trafalgar Park on Saturday for an historic playoff match, following the Canterbury team's decision to relocate from their earthquake-damaged home turf in Christchurch.
Mr Kerrisk said the Sharks were due to leave Sydney on a Qantas flight this afternoon bound for Wellington, where they were due to arrive at midnight. They would spend tomorrow in the capital before heading to Nelson around midday on Friday.
He expected an update on their progress later this afternoon.
The volcanic ash cloud is causing travel chaos as it rounds the globe for a second time and may yet make another lap over New Zealand, authorities said.
Pacific Blue, Aerolineas Argentinas, and Lan Chile also cancelled services yesterday.
CAA meteorological manager Peter Lechner said the cloud was lying to the west of New Zealand and would cover the entire country by this afternoon.
It would stay over the country for a few days.
It was possible the cloud would lap the globe and cross over New Zealand a third time, Mr Lechner said.
"It will disperse eventually – the dispersion process is under way but whether it comes around for a third time we can't tell yet."
When the cloud did disperse, it would do so horizontally, stretching out rather than falling through the atmosphere, Mr Lechner said.
Air New Zealand was continuing to fly this morning.
Last week it introduced more rigorous inspections of its planes because of the ash.
A spokesman said the airline adopted similar measures to those taken when an Iceland volcano erupted in April last year, by randomly checking aircraft for ash.
In addition to the regular plane checks before and after every flight, Air New Zealand would randomly inspect the engines with cameras.
"It's what every airline should be doing when you've got circumstances like this, just checking there is no ash around, and all the aircraft have been coming back clear."
He said eight of about 70 domestic planes were checked for ash at Auckland and Christchurch last week.
The Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano began erupting on June 4, belching tonnes of ash into the atmosphere and on to neighbouring Argentina.