Antarctica '09: Preamble

From Sydney to Punta Arenas

Thursday, 25 December

Santiago Airport Flying on a very quiet Christmas Day from Sydney via Auckland (NZ) to Santiago de Chile and on to Punta Arenas (PA) on Southern tip of the Chilean mainland (53°S, 70.85°W).

PA evening: 8°C, wind 25/70 km/h average/gusts, lightly cloudy with a bit of sun

Punta Areans We arrive at PA as planned a few days before the scheduled departure from PA to Antarctica, to allow enough time for all the preparations. While Gernot is frantically working towards meeting yet another paper deadline, Trudy complies with her tourie obligations and explores the town and its surroundings.


A quick note of explanation on our tour operator: ALE is the logistics company which organises all the flights to and within Antarctica, as well as running the base camp at Patriot Hills, and maintains fuel and food depots at Thiel Mountain and the South Pole. ANI is our tour operator; they meet us on arrival, provide guides and equipment for our expedition, and generally look after us on this trip. Originally competitors, ANI is now owned by ALE.

Friday, 26 December
Punta Areans, the capital of Patagonia

PA: 11–18°C, wind 30/92 km/h ave/gust, cloudy & light rain

After a sleep-in we stroll through town to find the ALE premises, where Gear inspection we meet the staff and hand-deliver a part for a weather station, which we have taken along on behalf of the station's supplier, Ron from Sydney. (We had met Ron via a common friend a few weeks earlier. He is an engineer who builds and installs weather stations—mostly, it seems, as an excuse to go to Antarctica once a year.)

In the afternoon, ANI staff come to our hotel to inspect our gear: we/they cannot afford us to go ill-equipped to Antarcticta—any last shopping will need to be done here in PA. In fact, on recommendation we stock up on additional gloves and glove liners. We later appreciate this advice: the thin liners wear out quickly, and our first set is barely usable by the end of the trip. The extra gloves weren't needed in the end, but we appreciate that in windy conditions it is easy to lose one, and it is good to have a back-up of such an essential item.

Saturday, 27 December
Visiting the Magellanic Penguins

PA: 6–16°, wind 40/70 km/h ave/gusts, cloudy & light rain

Gernot is still writing, so Trudy takes Iggy on a penguin safari ca. 30km north-west of PA.

PenguinIggy Penguin1 Penguin2 Penguin3 Apart from enjoying being in the midst of a flock of the little birds and taking some really cute photos, Trudy also picks up a few tidbits about Magellanic penguins:

Sunday, 28 December
Gear pick-up day

PA: 6–11°, wind 30 km/h ave, cloudy & light rain

gear-pickup Organised as they are, ALE pick up the “check-in” luggage early on the scheduled departure day to load it in the cargo section of the Ilyushin 76, the jet that will take us to Antarctica. The plane is waiting 2/3 fuelled to be ready at short notice (the rest of the fuel goes into the wings, and they don't want to leave that weight on for an extended period).


Monday, 29 December
Waiting for “Good-to-fly Day”

PA 10–14°C, wind 36/117 km/h ave/gusts
PA 14:00: 14°, 80/111 km/h wind/gust, cloudy/light rain
PA 18:00: 14°, 76/100 km/h wind/gust, lightly cloudy
PA 21:00: 10°, 57/85 km/h wind/gust, sunset at 22:10

Since today is our scheduled flight, we are put on standby waiting only cemetery2 cemetery1 for clement weather. The runway at PH has an E-W orientation, while the prevailing winds are from the South. The Ilyushin is limited to 25 knots cross wind. Turns out that this year is especially bad, with quiet conditions rare at PH. (The flight that was scheduled for departure two weeks before ours only left on the 28th—people expecting to be home for Christmas had trouble making it for NYE...)

While Trudy explores the well-known cemetery, Gernot uses the time to finishes his paper (he submits it at 2am on the 30th—yes, the paper did get accepted in the end ;-)


Tuesday, 30 December
Good-to-fly Day!

PA:8–14°C,wind 47/87 km/h ave/gusts
9:00PA:8°C,wind 52 km/h ave
9:00PH:-9°C,wind 20 km/h (11 knots)
9:00SP:-23°C,wind 20 km/h
15:00PA:11°C,wind 48/70 km/h ave/gusts
16:00PH:wind 24–31 km/h (13–17 knots, no gusts)
17:30PH:wind 28–39 km/h (15–21 knots, tendency easing)

terminal Calm weather is forecast for a long-enough window for the Ilyushin to carry out the roughly 14h turn-around flight. We get picked up in a bus from our hotel after lunch (Gernot found getting up a bit tough...) and are brought straight to the terminal and with hassle-free security clearance (we are the only flight departing around that time).

IL-76 rear view

Finally, we can board the Ilyushin...


Trudy & Gernot

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