Antarctica '09: Our Journey Home

Part 4 of our Antarctica Experience

Tuesday, 13 January

IlyuEnter IlyuSide IlyuSide IlyuSide Our flight back from SP to PH is yet an other treat: naturally, the weather is beautiful and the view over the scenery magnificent.

PH:fromabove1 PH:fromabove1 We are getting into PH at around 5:00. Our approach takes us along the Patriot Hills, which we cross at Windy Pass, and then circling above the camp before we land. This allows us yet another spectacular view of our temporary “home”, PH base camp.

PH:Ilyu As we approach PH we can see the Ilyushin sitting on the runway! This is the flight scheduled for 10 January, the one we were booked to fly out on. Obviously, it is going to depart without us. As we disembark the Twin Otter and walk back to the camp, we can observe the Ilyushin taking off...

Bad timing in a way, but as we find out, it was at capacity with 60 people on board (some of them originally scheduled for the 6 Jan flight which never happened). Also, the forecast is for more calm weather, and they are hopeful that they can turn the plane around as soon as the pilots' rest-time requirements allow it, and we might fly out this evening.

Meanwhile, as we get back to the main tent, staff have prepared a PH:celebr welcome celebration for us: fresh cauliflower soup, beef stew with potatoes and tira-mi-su for desert, accompanied with Chilean bubbly. Many of the staff hadn't had any sleep that night, given that only three hours earlier they welcomed the new arrivals from the Ilyushin (they are all Mt Vinson climbers, the last set of passengers for the season), and before that, they needed to organise the out-bound passengers for departure.

We finally get to lie down and sleep around 8:30—back in our old tent "Johansen". (Turns out, it had in the meantime be used by the Prince of Monaco—we now hope for a princely sleep :-)

Breakfast has been rescheduled for noon, which makes sense given that ShowerG Shower Showertent most people in camp didn't get to sleep until the morning. After the usual wonderful brekkie, we get an other special treat: we are offered a hot shower in the staff facility. It is very much like a Scandinavian sauna, with a large heated tent in an icy environment. One large stove is used to melt the snow, which we heap in by the shovel Showertent loads from just outside the tent. Another stove is used to heat the water to a lovely hot shower temperature. Wow, after this, we feel like new-born!

It turns out that the Ilyushin won't come in today, but hopefully in the early hours of tomorrow, so we prepare for our last night on Antarctica, although we have to be essentially packed up, ready to leave with half an hours' notice. Having got used to the place, the idea of leaving is somewhat sad.

Wednesday, 14 January

PH:Ilyu-dept4 PH:Ilyu-dept3 PH:Ilyu-dept2 PH:Ilyu-dept1 The Ilyushin (a fuel run with no passengers) arrives shortly after 3am. We make our way one last time towards the blue-ice runway and board at 4:20 for take off at 4:45. We are leaving Antarctica...

Well, one more thing: the farewell from PH staff is turning out to be quite emotional. Before we could get underway to our last-degree skiing expedition, we had been staying at the PH camp for a full week and got to know and appreciate the staff a fair bit. Thus, as we depart from PH, we not only leave a unique and awe-inspiring continent behind, but we also say good-bye to quite a few people we have grown quite fond of.

Trudy & Gernot

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