The 2011 Antarctic season was scheduled to officially get underway yesterday with ALE’s first flight to Patriot Hills and the Union Glacier camp. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite ready yet, so the flight has been delayed until tomorrow. In the meantime, this slight delay has given the teams that are already in Punta Arenas and opportunity to finish their last minute prep work and rest up for the start of their journey.
One of those teams is the Crossing the Ice squad consisting of Aussie adventurers James Castrission and Justin Jones who sent an audio dispatch yesterday detailing their delay. Apparently, all of their gear was loaded on board ALE’s big Ilyushin IL76 aircraft, and the boys thought they were ready to go, when they received word that the runway, which is built out of ice, was not ready to start receiving traffic just yet. ALE told them that it would be a few days before they could go, and projected tomorrow (October 18) for the date of the first flight.
For those who don’t know, ALE stands for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions. The company operates out of Punta Arenas, Chile and organizes most commercial flights to Antarctica. They operate a couple of camps on the continent themselves, and many adventurers hire them to deliver them, and their gear, safely to the frozen continent, where they can begin their journey to the South Pole, Mt. Vinson, or whatever other destination they’re headed toward.
It is still early in the season, so a few days delay shouldn’t disrupt the schedule much at all, and barring any major storms moving into the area, its likely the first flights will get underway tomorrow as expected. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see a steady stream of explorers heading out onto the ice, as we celebrate 100 years of Antarctic exploration over the coming months.
There will be a lot of traffic at the bottom of the world this season, so expect plenty of good updates on their progress.