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A small group of people in the UK survived a global apocalypse.

They have access to the remain stock piles of gasoline, kerosine, food, and clean water, and pharmaceuticals. And, have access to printed materials and portable electrical generators, automobiles, aircraft, ships, hot air ballons, the detritus of the dead old world.

Most wide area services no longer function — power grid, internet, cellular system. And, GPS is still functioning.

The group wants to get to North America. What’s the safest method for the small band and their resources to cross the Atlantic?

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    $\begingroup$ So the entirety of Europe, north and south, and every country bordering the mediterranean, and the Atlantic coast of Africa, and every island in the eastern and northern Atlantic, all those places are somehow so bad that their only option is to cross the atlantic? Really? How do they know that this vast swathe of the world is uninhabitable, but north america is not? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 17 '19 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ Downvoters: downvotes without comment are unhelpful and won't lead to improved questions. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 17 '19 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ So much of this depends on (a) what the apocalypse was (eg, if it was biological - did that change the creatures in the ocean?), and (b) the details of your survivors. If no one is around and there is no immediate issue, you could read books and figure out how to fly, making test runs with small planes and working up to a cargo jet. Ironically steering a ship would be more difficult, but that depends - can you see the stars? Is GPS available? If so the ship can probably run itself $\endgroup$ – cegfault Dec 17 '19 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Maybe they're hardcore Brexiteers and quite literally would not turn to Europe for help if their lives depended on it. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Dec 17 '19 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ For those people saying that learning to fly is easy, you are severely mistaken. It is the same as saying that someone can become a particle physicist by reading a couple of books. Will post an answer dealing with the aspects of flying once I get home. $\endgroup$ – Umbra Dec 17 '19 at 15:47
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Sailing would be much more viable option, you need much advanced engineering skills and tools to make plane fly, and if something break, your going down to the bottom. Ship on other hand, it would float even with broken engine, also you could bring much more food and other goods, I bet navigation would be much easier also. In case when they find no working ship, they could create something of sailboat.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, navigation would be the same in a post-apocalyptic world without air traffic controllers and GPS: you would need to work with map, compass, sextant and clock (btw: i seem to remember that unil the 50s or so a sextant was mandatory equipment on trans-ocean flights) $\endgroup$ – Burki Dec 17 '19 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ You have bigger safe margin of error on ship then on plane, also its more possible to find good map with ocean currents then with air currents. $\endgroup$ – Guy with jewels' names Dec 17 '19 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ The shortest part from England to America actualy goes mostly along the coasts. With two major gaps: England-Iceland & Iceland-Greenland. So only comapas and a globe or good naval maps would be enough to navigate. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Dec 17 '19 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @ksbes in the shortest route, you need to watch for icebergs. Trans-Atlantic sailing usually don't involve visiting Greenland and Iceland. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 17 '19 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @quarague billionaires pay to have a crew run and maintain their yachts. A superyacht is probably not a trivial thing to operate if you're unfamiliar with them. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 17 '19 at 21:20
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As I have no experience or knowledge of piloting a boat, I will keep my answer to the part of flying an aircraft across the Atlantic.

To start off, flying is complicated. To expand on this, with an instructor to explain and teach you, it is fairly simple to learn, with most people being competent enough to obtain their private pilot licence by 45 to 60 hours of flying. Within this, you would have done your first solo flight (you are alone in the aircraft) by 10 to 20 hours. – This depends on the countries aviation law, some are more restrictive and some are more lax. Going solo does not mean that you are capable of all aspects of flight. It means that you are competent enough to start the aircraft, taxi to the runway, take off, complete a circuit and the aircraft, and taxi back to the hanger. A circuit is take off, climb to 1000 feet, turn and fly parallel to the runway to a position where you again turn, start an approach and descend down to the landing. This would in total take about 15 to 20 min, and must all be done while completing all the relevant checks and procedures, and without hitting anything or anyone. You would notice that there is nothing in the part for going solo about navigation, changing fuel tanks, advanced aircraft with retractable gears or adjustable propellers, etc. So if you have absolutely no experience in flying, an aircraft would be as useful as a jar of dirt. You will not be able to teach yourself how to fly, and there is plenty of evidence on youtube of people who have tried and failed. It is a lesson you would be luck to walk away from once. To do it twice would be highly impossible. (Remember, the Wright brothers took many dozens of flights, barely getting more than a few feet off of the ground, and floating for a few dozen meters, while they worked out how to control this machine.)

Now that’s established, I am going to be making some assumptions for the main answer. Group of people – 10 to 15 total. There is at least one pilot among them. This is not hard to believe, as pilots are fairly common. Everyone should at least know of someone who knows a pilot.

‘The number of pilots licensed by the CAA to fly powered aircraft in 2005 was 47,000, of whom 28,000 held a Private Pilot Licence. The remainder held professional pilot licences, either a Commercial Pilot Licence or an Airline Transport Pilot Licence, although not all of these would be engaged in GA activities.[63] In addition, there are 10,000 active glider pilots,[64] and estimates put the membership of aviation-related sport and recreational associations at 36,000.’’ As per Wikipedia

While this is quite an old statistic, for this I will be disregarding the 28 000 private pilots, and assume they all achieved a commercial licence. This is because there has been a large boom in the aviation industry over the last 20 years, so to say that there are roughly 50 thousand commercial or airline pilots in the UK is not too rough of a stretch.

Starting point will be in London, Heathrow Airport. – Purely for navigational purposes as far as my calculations go.

The ideal aircraft for your group in this situation will be a Beechcraft 1900. It is a 19 seater, twin turboprop aircraft, mainly used by small regional airlines. Capable of carrying almost 3000 kg, and a speed of 280 Kts (518 km/h) it is a rather useful aircraft. Airline use requires it to be crewed by two pilots, it is certified to be flown by 1 crew member. It is also the largest aircraft that can be flown with only a commercial licence. The regulations will be of no importance during the apocalypse, but they provide a rough framework for what we are looking for here. (Flown by one pilot, not as restrictive as an airline licence, capable of carrying a small group of people with some supplies.)

The ideal route to follow will be from Heathrow to Edinburgh airport for refuelling. From there to Iceland and Keflavik airport. Iceland to Greenland, Narsarsuag airport will follow, then down to Canada, St Johns airport. Halifax/Stanfield will follow, and then depending on how far inland and south you want to go, will depend on where next. I have assumed John F Kennedy, as there are likely to be lots of loot available in New York, as well as vehicles to use.

enter image description here

Map of proposed Route, with each of the mentioned stops shown. The worst parts would be from the UK to Iceland and Greenland to Canada. With full passengers, it would not be able to carry enough fuel for these two legs due to the weight of the aircraft, but if the group size is no more than 10, up to 15 if you are willing to leave more supplies behind, it will be able to carry enough fuel.

Below you can see the navigational log for this flight. I noticed after finishing it that the speed was only set at 200 kts, so at 280 kts the time for each of the legs will be less. For those who have not seen one of these before, what is shown (in the top line) is the starting point, which direction to go for the next leg directly (DCT). The distance is then shown in Nautical Miles, and then the time, which can be ignored as it is incorrect.

enter image description here

These airfields have been selected for a variety of reasons (economic compromise between close enough to reach and far enough to minimize the amount of stops. With the exception of Greenland’s Narsarsuag all have a minimum of 2 runways, so that even if one is unusable due to rubble, another crashed aircraft etc, landing will still be possible. International airfields so will carry the correct fuel for use in the aircraft (Aviation has 2 fuel types, AVGAS and JET fuel, the B1900 uses JET fuel.))

Additional Information --- If you want to take the vehicles as well, you will have to scale the aircraft up to a Lockheed C-130 Hercules or maybe an Antonov 124 or Antonov An-225, all of which require special military training, so the possibility of having someone who just happens to be able to fly it becomes almost 0.

The same can be said for larger groups of people. As the number of people becomes larger, so does the required aircraft, and the number of people actually able to pilot them decreases due to the specialist requirements

For the Navigational purposes, these aircraft have GPS. While my knowledge of the maintenance of GPS satalites isnt the greatest, they should remain reliably usable for a generous amount of time, until they drift out of their set orbits, where they will become unreliable. This however depends on how your apocalypse happens. Even without GPS though, the pilot would still have access to aviation maps, which look like the one above, and the aircraft are equipped with a compass and a direction indicator, which is set according to your compass. So navigation would not have to revert to using sextants and so on.

Finally, aircraft maintenance is important, but I do not see you using the aircraft for an extended time. My assumption is that it would be used to get across the Atlantic, and then the survivors will go back to using vehicles, so the 25-30 hours of use will not be much of a factor. This is another reason for the selected airfields, as they are likely to have other B1900's if your one has something break, and will at the very least have similar aircraft that small parts might be salvaged from, such as a new tire and so on.

Route and navigation log created on Skyvecter. Very useful website, which you could use to check out other airports and different routes if you want.

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    $\begingroup$ This plan presumes that that all airports along the way have landing strips in good condition and have fuel available. What if there's a plane sitting in the middle of runway at Narsarsuag? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 17 '19 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ Flying will also be an additionally exciting experience once you've been deprived of weather forecasting, and (depending on the scale and nature of the apocalypse) communication with your destination. None of those places on your map are particularly renowned for their reliably balmy weather, light winds and excellent visibility... $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 17 '19 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Totally agree again, however that is what makes for something interesting. It would throw in tension if during the flight bad weather fores them to have to try and find a diversion point, while starting to run low on fuel. $\endgroup$ – Umbra Dec 17 '19 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Umbra flying an unfamiliar aircraft to a place you've never been without the aid of modern technology is likely to result in brief moments of excitement and adventure followed by long periods of being dead ;-) $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 17 '19 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander That's what planning is for, and the reason the specific airports where chosen, in order to minimize the risk of the runway way being unusable by having at least two runways, etc. They are also International airports and so should have plenty of fuel remaining, due to OP stating that most infrastructure remains. Also this being an apocalypse event and all, its very unlikely that all the fuel would have been scavenged by other survivors $\endgroup$ – Umbra Dec 17 '19 at 21:10
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Sailing across the Atlantic is straightforward

You simply need to navigate to a point where the East-to-West trade winds will carry you. You then just have several weeks of downwind sailing until you hit the American continent.

The hard part is knowing where to go, so that you can pick up the trade winds. By trial and error, captains from the Age of Sail discovered that they had to go from the African coast first, and from there strike out for the Azores. These days though you can find the relevant charts in any book on blue-water sailing, and in fact in many basic geography textbooks. Your post-apocalyptic survivors simply need to find a book shop.

Navigation was hard in the Age of Sail, and for a long time there was no way to find longitude. Any post-apocalyptic survivor should be able to find a quartz watch or clock though, so that makes life much easier. A simple calculator (solar-powered, of course) will make the maths easier too.

Your survivors do need to choose the right boat. Some sailing boats are optimised for fair-weather cruising, where a wide beam gives a wider cabin and more living space, at the cost of seaworthiness in bad conditions. Your survivors have the pick of boats available though. There's no reason you wouldn't snaffle a Halberg Rassy or something similar, given the choice.

And of course you need supplies for the crossing. The survivors have the benefit of salvaged containers for water, and can probably salvage enough tinned food, packets of flour and so on.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the safest option. It's probably the most comfortable option (the Azores is much warmer than Iceland). And this option allows for a huge amount to be transported. Also, if you have a large group - take several vessels, this will also increase the safety! $\endgroup$ – Coomie Dec 18 '19 at 2:49
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The cold never bothered me anyway.

Your characters will go around the Atlantic.

pole in winter

https://www.geographicguide.com/planet/globe-arctic.htm

When civilization crashed, CO2 emissions crashed with it, and winters became very cold. Your characters are not skilled aviators. They are competent with boats but the ocean is dangerous - everyone with a boat has taken to sea to avoid the chaos and horrors of the land. Pirates are heavily armed.

Your characters are, however, ok with the cold. And it is cold. The North Sea has frozen. They make their way to Scotland and head out across the ice. They stay just offshore of Scandinavia, crossing to the land periodically to forage. After encountering trouble in Siberia they head north, crossing over the pole and dropping back down into Canada.

There are not many others that far north. It is quiet up in the cold, away from the dying world. Maybe they will stay.

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  • $\begingroup$ How they would navigate so far north without any modern equipment? Compasses there would be useless, Pole star wouldn't help either (at least i think so), no distinct landmarks there, just flat white snow desert. $\endgroup$ – Guy with jewels' names Dec 17 '19 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ Well, a journey like that would put Amundsen and Shackleton to shame :) $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 17 '19 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ Climate doesn't work that way. If civilization crashes today, tomorrow we won't have colder winter. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Dec 17 '19 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Ruby - navigation would be interesting grist for the narrative mill. L.Dutch - you are right as regards greenhouse gases; there would need to be other aspects to the apocalypse which cooled the earth. There is no shortage of candidates. $\endgroup$ – Willk Dec 17 '19 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ A trip to the North Pole and back down the other side? Unless there was a major climate shift, there would only be an icebridge in winter, so they'd be traveling almost entirely at night... 6000km across ice with no resupplies? This is the second most dangerous option after a direct swim... $\endgroup$ – Coomie Dec 18 '19 at 2:44
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I think while both piloting an aircraft and a transport ship are equally viable (or at least plausible), they should try a sail boat.

To clarify: Flying an aircraft is not that hard. By far the biggest part of pilot training is handling emergencies. Assuming that your group can choose the time they fly, and don't necessarily need to re-use the aircraft (so they can live with very rough landings and an aircraft stuck in the mud somewhere near their destination), they might actually be able to pull that off. But transport aircraft capable of not only carrying several 4*4 with trailers are rare, and those that manage that kind of load across the atlantic are even rarer.

Ships might actually be more demanding: ships are surprisingly complicated, and hardly two of them work in the same way and have their controls in the same place. On the other hand, once you found out how the particular vessel works, it's even simpler to operate than an aircraft, and you don't die immediately if you mis-judged fuel consumption.

Which brings us to the fuel part: both a large cargo aircraft and a large enough ship require tons of fuel. For aircraft, it also has to be the right fuel in reasonable quality.

I think xyou should abandon your vehicles (you will find 4*4s in abundance in the (former) US. Find a sailing vessel that is large enough (20m / 60ft), that saves you the need to find tons of useful fuel, pack your friends and your supplies, that is tools, food, water maker and alcohol, and grab what else you need once you arrive.

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    $\begingroup$ Flying an aircraft is not that hard citation needed. But depending on the world, they may be able to read books / access enough information to figure out what is needed and how to go about it $\endgroup$ – cegfault Dec 17 '19 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @cegfault i have 45hrs and 220 landings on C152 and P28, so i think i might be able to judge. I also have a sport boat license. Plus, OP suggested someone might have a private pilot license. $\endgroup$ – Burki Dec 17 '19 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ I got the sense you were a pilot ;) ... I've found that when we're experts (or at least experienced), we think the "simple" things are easy, and often forget how difficult it is for noobs. It's like me saying "oh calculus isn't difficult at all!", but someone struggling with basic algebra just doesn't have the same mind, and having never been exposed to calculus they'd say it's damn near impossible. So I'd suspect that someone with zero plane experience wouldn't find flying to be so easy. If the transition from civilian to international is, I'll have to take your word on that :) $\endgroup$ – cegfault Dec 17 '19 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ Flying is easy; landing is easy; being able to walk away afterwards is the hard part. $\endgroup$ – ths Dec 17 '19 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ "How do we land now?" - "Oops, it's in the next instruction volume!" $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 17 '19 at 17:31
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I don't think flying is a good choice. Are your survivors skilled aircraft mechanics with the proper tools and replacement parts? If not, how are going to refurbish a plane such that it can make the trip? Are any of them pilots? And even if you can get past all this, where will you land? How do you know there are runways or stretches of highway that are clear and not eroded?

I think sailing is your best bet. The Vikings crossed the Atlantic in open sailboats, so your survivors should be able to as well. You say your survivors have gasoline, which is all the better. If the Vikings could do it with sails, your survivors can do it with an outboard engine and a lot of gasoline. Maybe bring a sail too just in case the engine dies irreparably.

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