Yesterday’s flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica, in a big Russian Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft, half full of cargo and half full humans – took just over four hours. Tarka and I flew here in a smaller aeroplane – a Basler – in 2013, and while it’s hard to say which journey had the greater sense of occasion, I can’t imagine a flight to Antarctica ever being unexciting.
The passengers on the flight – the first to Union Glacier this year – were mostly ALE staff, apart from the Ice Maidens and a Norwegian pair, Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen who are planning to travel from Ross Island to the South Pole via the Axel Heiberg Glacier, following Roald Amundsen’s route.
While the weather doesn’t look great for the teams starting from the Ross Ice Shelf, it currently looks like there are multiple windows for me to be dropped at Berkner Island in the next few days, so I’m optimistic I’ll be dropped with a decent time window to get across the continent.
It was surreal being back in my sleeping bag last night, in Antarctica’s 24-hour daylight, almost as if I was last here a few weeks ago, and the months and years at home in between were all compressed.
Life here is still surprisingly civilised; I slept in my tent at -22 degrees centigrade last night, but I had bacon and eggs and fresh coffee for breakfast, sat at a table and eating with a knife and fork. Things will be a little more basic when I’m dropped off soon…