Punta Arenas or bust!

November 8th, 2010

For those of you that don’t already know, hot on the heels of finishing both the Writing-Up Cruise and the actual writing up of the thesis (hurrah!), I’ve embarked on a new job in Antarctica. I’m working for Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions, who provide support to private expeditions and governmental organisations and also operate guided trips to Antarctica under the brand name Adventure Network International. I’m spending three months as a communications operator/engineer at their main camp at Union Glacier, in the Ellsworth Mountains. But right now, I’m in Punta Arenas in Chile, doing the manic pre-season organisation and training and waiting for the conditions to be suitable to fly in to Union Glacier.

I got to Punta on Wednesday evening, having left Cambridge at 0530 on Tuesday morning! I took a cab into town, a coach to Heathrow, a flight to New York, another flight overnight to Santiago, and yet another flight to Punta Arenas itself. That’s three flights, five airline meals, thee meals in airports and about five hours sleep… In Santiago, they called my name and said that one of my bags hadn’t made the connection in New York: as I queued up to fill in the forms, I met Fran, one of the other ALE staff and a veteran of many seasons. As I completed my final form, a man appeared with my missing case – but poor Fran was concerned that her bags had gone AWOL in New York. Fortunately we had a long connection in Santiago, and Fran’s bags caught up with her in Punta Arenas…

Since then I’ve been getting to know everyone, done some introductory training in how the company works, done some field training (revision of my Rothera days!) and run round like a mad thing trying to get computers, meteorological and communications equipment organised for the first flight. We fly in to Antarctica on a giant Ilyushin-76 transport plane, flown by a band of jolly Russians, Belarusians and Ukranians – and it lands on an ice runway. Just at the moment the weather at UG is non-ideal – lots and lots of soft snow – and the runway isn’t yet usable. We should have flown today if conditions were right, so now we’re on daily standby!

In the mean time we get to enjoy Punta Arenas, its four-seasons-in-one-hour weather and its tasty food and drink. I’ve met the first of our clients, Chris Foot, an ex-Marine who’s planning to be the first person to ski from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back without being resupplied by air or using a traction kite. Chris is at one end of the ALE client spectrum – the other end being wealthy, elderly guests who come for a week’s holiday at UG and a day out to the South Pole by air. In between are lots of different expeditioners, tourists and scientists! Once I’m at UG I’ll have no web access and only limited access to email. I’ve got blog-by-email set up, so hopefully once I’m on site I’ll be able to keep everyone up-to-date via the blog.

One Response to “Punta Arenas or bust!”

  1. Cy Says:


    Left the Marines after 3 years to join Mountain Troop, 21st Regiment (Special Air Service). Nice to have about if it kicks off in the drinking dens of downtown Punta Arenas.

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