Antarctica 2010: Is Today The Day The Season Begins?

725px Vinson Massif

For the past week I’ve been writing updates about the 2010 Antarctic season, but mostly they’ve been reports on the weather and how the expeditions are spending their time in Punta Arenas, waiting for their chance to hit the ice. There have been a number of starts and stops, with forecasts calling for weather windows that didn’t appear, but it seems that after nearly two weeks of delays, the Union Glacier base may finally be open for business.

Both Chris Foot and Willem ter Horst posted updates late yesterday that indicated that they had promising calls from ALE that indicated that they should be ready to fly at 6AM local time today. Neither of them has posted a follow-up, which leads me to believe that they caught the first flight out of Chile and may now be en route to Antarctica itself.

Apparently, the weather has improved at Union Glacier and the advance team has cleared the blue ice runway that will allow the big Ilyushin cargo planes to begin landing, and delivering the polar explorers and climbers to the frozen continent. This is good news for everyone who has been waiting for their chance to get underway, and I know that our friend Alan Arnette will be happy to hear that news, as he departs for Punta Arenas tomorrow to begin the first leg of his Seven Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s. First on Alan’s hit list will be the 4892 meter (16,050 ft) Mt. Vinson, the tallest peak on the Antarctic continent.

Expect more updates on the conditions in Antarctica soon. If the teams do begin to get shuttled to Hercules Inlet today, they’ll likely spend a day or two there before setting out. Chris Foot will probably be the first person out of Union Glacier, as he has a long journey ahead and has already lost precious time waiting for his flight. More to come soon I’m sure!

Kraig Becker