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…