November 19 – 20, 2011
Today, on November 19, in the morning, we received a message from ALE that we may leave for Antarctica at 2:00pm. This was exciting news and we went back to your rooms to do the final packing. We checked out around 1:00pm and waited in the hotel lobby for the news. Now things moved fast: The luggage was weighed, loaded and moved to the airport.
Then, shortly before 2:00pm we received a cancellation call for the flight. The Ilyushin Il-76 could not leave as planned that day due to bad weather in Antarctica. The next call would be at 8:15pm the same day… Well, since everything regarding the flight to Antarctica depends on the weather, there was nothing we could do. We checked in our hotel again and waited…
At 8:30pm that evening the good news came: The bus will be at the hotel in 30 minutes and the Ilyushin flight is scheduled at 11:00pm. We all went through a kind of security at the airport (yes, it is a intercontinental flight…) and we all moved into the freight room of the big plane. It was definitely a different kind of flight when you have a big truck and tons of heavy equipment behind your seats in an airplane. The Il76 with its four strong jet engine took off at 11:40pm that day, direction Union Glacier, Antarctica. We were on our way…
On November 20, at 4:45am the huge plane landed on the blue-ice runway at Union Glacier. It needs a long runway and a lot of reverse trust to stop such a heavy plane on the ice. But all worked fine and we put our first footprint on the snow soil of Antarctica. The temperature was -13 C and the weather was fine. Welcome to Antarctica!!!!
After we have been moved by a special bus to the camp, we waited until 8:00am and eat some breakfast. Around 9:30am the same day we received the information that we may leave the same afternoon for Vinson Base Camp. And yes, this time was not much waiting: At 4:00pm we left the Union Glacier with a Twin Otter plane for Vinson Base Camp. It was a beautiful flight across the immense territory of Antarctica. What a view!!! About an hour later we landed on the Branscomb Glacier. As soon as the plane left, we were alone on the coldest, windiest and most extreme continent on earth!!! By now it was below -20 degrees C. We put up the tents and moved in. That night David, my tent mate, measured -24 degrees C in our tent… Welcome to the Vinson Massif!
Weight check for the flight – Things are finally moving.
The IL76 is ready to be loaded – What an exciting airplane
One of the Russian crew members checking the heavy load during take off
Reaching the edge of Antarctica – The ice shelf.
It is a different feeling to have a truck behind your seats…
Safe landing on the blue-ice runway – And my first footprint on Antarctica!
Efficient snow “tires” for this cold environment.
The Ellsworth Mountains – Our goal for the next few weeks.
Getting ready at Union Glacier for the next flight further inland.
The Twin Otter plane is loaded – Where is the pilot?
Snow as far as the eye can see… How cold will it be???
Saying goodbye to the Twin Otter plane – Our last link to civilization…
Welcome to Vinson Base Camp – It is beautiful and COLD out here!!!