Happy New Year Amtrak Unlimited. Had some down time, and figured I'd share some experiences from flying over the Arctic. Climb maintain FL240, for xxx 881 Heavy, came the blast from my headset, as we climbed through some light chop… Thanks to the craziness of Crew Scheduling, and a friend of mine begging to swap trips, so he could be home for his 20th anniversary, I had a rare flight that started in Chicago (ORD), rather than my normal crew base in Newark (EWR). My fiancé, who is also a pilot, but with a different airline is working on this holiday week, so off I go to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. Forgetting the craziness that is O’Hare, with it’s endless taxiways and jammed frequencies, I can finally relax a little. This afternoon, we are a 4 person crew, and the relief crew heads for the bunks, to catch some sleep, before they relive myself and my First Officer in about 3 hours. We will continue this routine of 3 hours on, 3 hours off until we arrive in Japan tomorrow, around 4:30PM, local time. Flying to japan from the United States is always interesting. Most people think that a flight from the Midwest, or the east coast would head west, possibly passing over San Francisco or LA. But, and much to the dismay of the flat earthers, the shortest distance between two different points on a map is NOT a straight line, but actually an arc across the globe, called a great circle route. The great circle route from Chicago to Tokyo, curves up into western Canada, and then cuts across Alaska, over Denali National Park. The route then hugs the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka, before we pass over northern Japan, and descend into Tokyo. The route is about 5500nm. However, todays flight also needs to take into account turbulence and the jet stream, and how to either take advantage of it, or avoid it. Today the stream is working to our disadvantage, as it typically does headed west. Therefore, rather than fly into it, and fight a 100+ knot headwind, we will fly north of it, and fly directly over the top of the world, flying what we call a polar route. Leaving Chicago, and passing 18,000 feet, we take up a course directly north, with a heading of 360 degrees. In a few hours we will over fly Hudson Bay, and the very far northern territory of Nunavut in Canada. At this point, still having flown a 360 degree heading, will we start our turn northwestward, to the very high latitudes of the Artic Ocean. Our route will touch 79 degrees north, before we turn south over Russia. Within about two hours of take-off, we enter an area where our magnetic compasses become unreliable, swinging wildly, so we use true north as our reference. Looking at our charts, I try and wrap my head around the fact our nearest diversion airport is either Barrow, Alaska, or an airport in Sweden who’s name I still can’t pronounce, both of which are 1,000 miles away to the south, despite being on opposite sides of the planet. We are about 4 hours into our flight, still heavy with fuel, at FL340 (34,000 feet) zipping along at Mach .83 when a message comes in from our dispatch with our fuel freeze temperature. If the fuel we have on board is allowed to cool to the point it freezes, it would lead to a very bad day for all, so on polar flights, my airline actually takes a sample of the fuel on board, and cools it to determine it’s exact freezing temperature. This number is relayed to us via satellite, while in flight, and inserted into our flight management computer. If the fuels gets within a few degrees of this number, we get an alert. Our options, however, are a limited to warm the fuel. We can either fly faster, or fly lower, both of which can have implications for our carefully planned fuel calculations when we left Chicago. Our flight today passes through 10 different large ATC sectors called FIRs, or flight information regions. Each of these FIRs has its own rules regarding communication and position reports. The 777 has five different communication systems on board. VHF, HF, something called Controller Pilot Data Link Communications, (CPDLC), along with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Contract (ADS-C), both of which are data transmission networks. CPDLC is kinda cool, as it allows us to essentially text message with controllers. We also have SATCOM on board as well. Each of the ATC sectors we fly into supports some, or all of these comm networks, and we must have at least two available at one time. Coming down from the high latitudes, we make landfall off the Artic Ocean, over part of Siberia. The view from the flight deck is surreal, with nothing but white vastness, and rugged looking mountains below us. There is literally no sense of human civilization below us, as far as the eye can see. The view stays like this for hours. Soon, we begin our descent into Tokyo. The sun has never really set on this almost 12 hour, 37 minute flight across the Artic. We have crossed 9 time zones, into tomorrow. Curiously, the sun dipped briefly below the horizon, only to rise again as we left the upper latitudes, east of the International Date Line. Finally, the runway emerges out from the late afternoon gloom of a rainy day in Tokyo, as my First Officer smoothly lands our 777 onto the 11,000 foot long strip of asphalt in front of us, after almost 13 hours aloft, having flown to the very edges of our planet.