Antarctica update 2014

AntarcticaPosted by Espen Sat, March 15, 2014 17:46:55

As there was an overland vehicle involved this season as well, I thought I should do a write up on the main events in this year's Antarctic season.

We arrived back home in Norway mid September, and after about four weeks spent with families and friends, we packed our winter gear and got on the plane to Punta Arenas in Chile. Almost two days later we could smell spring in Southern Patagonia. Walking the streets we kept our eyes open for overlanders coming south, but we didn’t spot any. It was probably a little too early in the season. After a long delay waiting for the weather at Union Glacier in Antarctica we finally got the call to go to the airport. 11 days behind schedule we landed on the blue ice runway on Union Glacier ready for another season on the frozen continent.

Camp was up and running, but we had unusually bad weather this year, and many flights were delayed. Fortunately, we managed to get most of the passenger flights in and out on time. Cargo flights had to be moved forward, and in the end, the season was extended with almost two weeks to get in all the flights that were planned. Many days had contrast so poor we wouldn’t even leave camp.

More and more airplanes are using the Union Glacier skiway. British Antarctic Survey have several bases on and around the peninsula, and on their way to sites on the plateau or to the South Pole they normally drop in for lunch. Also American scientists have been using our facilities this season, and a Chilean group has established a new camp not far from ours. It was quite busy at times.

The highlight for me this season was “The Blue Van Recovery Project”. Two years ago, one of our Ford vans had a mechanical failure a few kilometers from the South Pole driving as a support vehicle for an expedition. We got the car to the pole, but had to leave it there over winter. The next season we got spare parts in, and one of our mechanics got it running. Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t good enough to drive it all the way back to base at the time. This season, I was on the team to bring it back. We flew in with new tires and got the van running and fueled up for the return trip. Waiting for the weather we also set up a small camp that the company uses for our expedition clients. A few days later a field guide flew in to manage the camp, and on the flight was also my favorite chef, Malin!

Together at the South Pole!!

Camp at the Pole with Sun Dogs...

Blue Van Team ready to depart for the 1200 kilometer drive across the Antarctic Plateau to Union Glacier. Me on the left, with Nigel, Senior Mechanic, and Tom, Field Guide. It is a surreal feeling leaving the Pole driving into absolutely nothing but white.....

Because of the poor weather we were about a week delayed to start the blue van project. We arrived at the pole a few days after Scott and E7 had passed on their way back to Novo. Too bad we couldn’t meet up. Imagine an overland meeting at the South Pole!?!?! I even brought my Overland Journal cap! However, we were lucky enough to meet some of the Arctic Truck team, and three of the trucks drove out the same route as us. These trucks are now overwintering at our base at Union Glacier. Before wintering the vehicles, we had time for a quick day trip on one of our routes (checked with radar) up a glacier a few hours out from camp. From this point we had great views to Antarctica’s highest mountain, Mt Vinson, about 130 kilometers away. Looks interesting? Well, book a trip for next year!!

Malin was part of the close down team this season, and didn’t leave Antarctica until 11th of February. On her return to Norway, I had been busy in the garage with the Patrol, and even picked up a new “temporary local overland (read: tarmac) vehicle”. For the next update…


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Things to do after an overland trip

EuropePosted by Espen Wed, February 19, 2014 17:40:03
Hi All,

We’ve been off-line for a while, but are now back in Norway after a great couple of months on the Antarctic continent. Malin was part of the shut-down crew this season, and they flew out on the 11th of February. I’ve been in Norway for a couple of weeks working on the Patrol.

The Patrol which has looked like this for the last five years, is under the knife... To get the car through the roadworthy–tests in Norway, the lift, the big tires, and also the steel bumpers have to come off. All the camping gear has gone into storage, and the modifications have been reversed back to original settings.

It has been quite a few hours spent in the workshop to change back to the original parts, but fortunately it seems everything has survived the time in storage. The only thing left is to replace the axles with lower geared ones. The axles we’ve had have been geared for 37”-38” tires, and the original tire size is about 30.5” Feels weird, and the size difference is significant!

Underbody protection is coming off, and so are the rock sliders on the side. Originally the Patrol has steps.

The adjustable and longer/dropped control arms are replaced with the standard arms as the lift coils are taken out. The arms from the lift kit is on the floor.

Everything is put back on and I had the first test drive. Next up is a good rub and polish, and to mount back seats. I still think it looks good considering what it has been through!

And so it ends for the unURBAN Patrol. Soon to be for sale...

Thanks for the ride!!

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Waiting for weather

AntarcticaPosted by Espen Thu, November 07, 2013 15:18:01


Thanks so much for all Your comments! We haven't been very active online lately, and we'll probably be relatively quiet for the next couple of months too. Right now we're stuck in Punta Arenas, Chile, waiting for a weather window in Antarctica so we can fly in. We've been waiting for 10 days now, and today we actually went to the airport, but were called off at the last moment... Next try later today :-)

We have brought with us all the notes from our trip, and the plan is to post updates on costs, equipment, and other lessons learned when we're back home late January.

So! Until then, happy overlanding!!
Espen & Malin

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Norway - home at last

EuropePosted by Espen Sun, October 20, 2013 16:40:12

Dear friends, fellow overlanders, and all readers,

This post has been looming in the distance for some time now. But no matter how hard we’ve tried to postpone this part, the time has come. The arrival home, and the final trip report from the unURBAN Adventure through North-, Central-, and South America, Africa, and Europe.

But first! We had the first flat tire in three and a half years of travel! It happened on the autobahn (German Highway) only a few hundred kilometers from home. Our tires have now done close to 90 000 kilometers (56 000 miles) and are ready for replacement, but they have done AMAZINGLY well! More action on the German autobahn was a scraping sound from our rear brakes. Worn out pads… I was hoping they would last us home as we need to replace the discs as well, but nope. Fortunately, Germany has the best prices for car parts in Western Europe, so we bought more or less all we needed for our next services. We changed the brake pads before continuing west towards Belgium and Ostend on the Atlantic coast. A small detour, but we were invited to a friend’s wedding. We also like detours…

All the way through Northern Africa, The Middle East, and so far in Europe we had no rain. In fact, we hadn’t had rain since Ethiopia! We drove from Belgium to The Netherlands, and then back into Germany. On our way north towards Denmark the sky opened up, and it was pouring down. I think maybe someone tried to tell us something, or at least, we were seriously tempted to turn back south.

On the top of Denmark we lined up for the ferry across to Norway. We arrived late in the evening and pitched our roof top tent in the line waiting for the ferry. Early next morning the crew came over and woke us up for check in.

Weather was getting better and better, and the five hours sailing to Norway was comfortable and quite nice. The ferry arrives in Langesund, only about an hour from where Malin grew up.

We were a little worried as the Patrol hadn’t been in Norway for three and a half years. In Norway all vehicles need an approval from the traffic authorities every second year, and when this is not okay, police and customs will look for the license plate numbers. However, they only do random checks, and we counted on being lucky, or rather, not being unlucky. We were waved through without any questions. Phew…

It felt strange pulling into Malin’s parent’s drive way with the Patrol. The feeling of not having been away at all is something we’ve heard about from other overlanders, but this is really true. It is of course also really nice to be welcomed back by family and friends. The Patrol was emptied of all the stuff we’ve been hauling around the last couple of years, and I think we filled up the bag in the vacuum cleaner. Except from all the car parts, the tools, and the cold weather gear, our stuff went into the barn together with the rest of our stuff that has been stored there since we left for North America.

There were still a few miles to go before we were at the end of the road for our trip around the world. We built the Patrol and prepared for the trip close to where I grew up on the west coast. The drive over the mountains was stunning. Norway really showed us its best side.

We’ve now had some great days on the West Coast. The weather has been way better than usual for this time of year, and we’ve hiked and kayaked and chilled out on the veranda.

Malin is going back south, and I’m about to start working on our Patrol. All the good stuff and the camping equipment is going off, and the original Nissan stuff is going back on. This picture of the Patrol is the end of the unURBAN route - west coast of Norway. Our journey is officially concluded.

So, here we are. Home at last. Fortunately, we have new contracts for another season in Antarctica. Hopefully this will take the edge of the “oh-my-god-what-are-we-gonna-do-now” feeling, and we can perhaps try to deal with that sometime in February. If I’m lucky, there is another blue 6x6 van waiting at the South Pole that needs moving, and Malin will be taking care of the camp kitchen.

We’ve had a fantastic adventure. Maybe we’ve been lucky, but we are also careful and try to think things through before we choose our route. In our experience almost everybody we’ve met has been friendly, helpful, and curious about us and our trip. Nothing has been stolen. Of course we’ve heard about things that went wrong from other travelers, but mostly relatively innocent stuff, and probably not more than what we hear from friends back home after a night out in town. Travel! You’ll be fine!

In more than three years of blogging and posting on six different internet forums we haven’t got a single negative comment, but lots of advice, kind words, and people saying thanks for us taking the time to share. It has been a pleasure! Reading all the positive comments on the forum has been a huge motivation to keep writing and posting.

To all of you out there who have been following, reading, and commenting: thank you, thank you, thank you! It has been one hell of a trip!

More soon? ;-)

All the best,

Espen & Malin

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EuropePosted by Espen Tue, October 01, 2013 16:26:22
Europe is full of interesting places to see, and it is extremely hard to choose a few. As we have now chosen the route along the Adriatic coast, one stop gave itself: Dubrovnik in Croatia. In August most tourist destinations are packed with people, but hey, it’s now that we’re here, so we better make the best of it. We couldn’t even find a parking space down town, so we ended up a couple of kilometers away near the port, and found a bus going back in to the city center.

We timed our visit to a weekday as we heard there could be as many as 15 – 16 000 cruise ship tourists in town in the weekends – each day! There is even a webpage with the numbers for the following days so you can plan your visit. The Thursday we went in there should be about 1500 cruise passengers, and then all the drive- and fly in tourists of course. It was crowed enough, so we were glad we found out about the weekend mayhem…

But what a beautiful town! Extremely touristy, but well worth a day exploring. Plenty of nice cafes and restaurants, and you can even go for a swim on the cliffs just a few meters outside the city walls.

It is also possible to walk all around the old city on top of the walls. Great views!

Between Dubrovnik in the south and Zadar in the north, the coast of Croatia is full of tourists. Some kilometers north of Zadar the main highway north take off and turn more inland. We took the coast road, and found a few small, quiet towns, and it was a beautiful drive along the crystal clear Adriatic sea.

A few more hours driving north, we crossed the border to Slovenia. This is another country we would love to spend time in, but that will have to be next time. We have an appointment in Switzerland with some old friends. One of the main tourist attractions in Slovenia is the Postojna Cave, and it wasn’t too far away from our route. It was very different from the Black Chasm Cave we visited in the USA, but quite fascinating. For Norwegians: notice the language on the brochure..

And it is HUGE!

From Slovenia we crossed the border to Italy, passed Venice that we visited last year just after flying out from Arusha in Tanzania. This time we drove straight past and headed for Milan (or rather Bergamo a few kilometers outside) to do some shopping. We were invited to a wedding in Belgium so we need a present and some nice clothes. Italy is perfect for this! Not to mention filling up the fridge with goodies. This is paradise!

What was interesting to see in the supermarkets in Italy is that almost all the food you find here is produced or grown in Italy. And Italy is not really that big. This is an ENORMOUS difference when comparing with Africa where you hardly have any selection of foods.

With the fridge full, new clothes, and even a present for the wedding, we started climbing over the Alps to Switzerland.

We were on our way to Klönthaler Sea to set up camp for the weekend. One of the reasons for picking this particular spot, was that the campground allowed open fire. And this was important. We saw the campground from a distance when we were driving in along the lake. And yes, there it was, a white Toyota Landcruiser with a tall fiberglass roof. Toyotours had just arrived. Pulling off the road to check in, we parked behind an orange VW Combi from 1976. Some of the readers might remember this car from our first camps on Baja California almost three years ago. The last time we saw them was in Panama City in May 2011. We parked the cars in a circle as we used to, and left a space open. A couple of hours later this was filled by Nordsued.ch and their Land Rover Defender 110. This is the couple we shared container with around the Darian Gap on our way to South America. Toyotours doesn’t need much introduction, most of you have seen them in our pictures more or less all the way. We met them first time on Baja California, and have travelled together on and off the entire trip. They had arrived home in Germany only about two months earlier.

It was a magic weekend with good stories and lots of fun. I think all of us are already planning new adventures. The date for our next “overland meeting” is not yet set, but it will happen for sure. Leaving our friends after the weekend was in a way the moment when I realized that our trip is now coming to an end. A very sad moment. This really is the last leg home...


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