Friday, January 4, 2013

Union Glacier Ice Camp

The PolarExplorers Last Degree team is settling down for the night in Antarctica!

Leaving "The Land of Fire" behind
Dale, Diego and Heather ready to board the Ilyushin in Punta Arenas
The Ilyushin in Punta Arenas

They received a call at 8 AM instructing them to stand by for further information, and at 9:30 they received the "green light call". They left South America behind at noon, and touched down in Antarctica 5 PM. After taxiing from the runway to Union Glacier Base Camp they enjoyed a meal that they didn't have to cook themselves--not too many of those in the week to come.

Antarctica's busiest airport
One of the comfortably heated Union Glacier tents

Union Glacier is situated about 600 miles from the South Pole along the Ellsworth Mountains, a 224 mile long range that contains Antarctica's highest peak (Vinson Massif, 16,050 feet / 4,892 meters). Union Glacier itself is 3,000 feet above sea level.

The Ellsworth Mountains of Western Antarctica (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

When Keith called in to the PolarExplorers Headquarters about 90 minutes ago, the team was waiting for their gear transfer, and everyone was ecstatic to be so near the bottom of the globe.

The team plans to have a "dry run" of expedition life tomorrow morning. After breakfast they will practice pitching camp as a team (they hope for some gusty wind to really put their teamwork to the test; there is currently only a slight breeze flapping the tent fabric at Union Glacier) and stretch their legs with a short ski. They hope to catch a flight to their skiing embarkation point after a Union Glacier dinner so they can get some shut eye right after pitching their first camp.
A well stocked Antarctic kitchen

The past day and a half in Chile was a whirlwind of meetings and logistics. The chillier, snowier setting has drawn the mental curtain on what is sure to be an incredible adventure!

One final non expedition related note, PolarExplorers is joining Keith and John, the team's Oregon alumni,  in celebration of their alma mater's 35-17 Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State last night. Go Ducks!

Thanks so much for following, and check back tomorrow for more notes from the field.


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