1. Lou lands in Punta Arenas
2. Riding the Ilyushin to Union Glacier
3. Arrival at Union Glacier
4. Lou's Diary
1 . L O U L A N D S I N P U N T A A R E N A S
We've just received word that Captain Lou Rudd has arrived in Southern Chile and is currently going through his final preparations before flying to Antarctica. He’ll be spending these last days of comfort in the seaside port of Punta Arenas, close to the lower snow-patched ridges of Chilean Patagonia. The city is popular amongst polar tourists and explorers, who use it as a springboard to the great, frozen unknown. Hence its acquired moniker – The City At The End of the World – a reference to its position beside the outflowing waters of the Strait of Magellan. These waters then carve passage through the spiny mountains, tidewater glaciers and fjords of Alberto de Agostini National Park and flow out towards Antarctica.
Lou will be spending the next few days in downtown Punta Arenas at Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) Headquarters. For 25 years ALE has specialised in providing deep-field Antarctic experiences and logistical services. Lou’s pulk arrived several weeks ago at ALE’s combined office and warehouse, where Lou has just been reunited with his supplies. He has now packed 75 days of food and readied, weighed and loaded most of his kit. Everything is going to plan and Lou is shedding all excess weight to maximise energy efficiency on the ice. So far he’s saved weight on waste food packaging, calculated his fuel and weighed and reweighed all his refined essentials. The final stages focus on examining the velocity of the ice to map crevasses and route planning with ALE.
With typical good humour Lou let us know that the weather looked good for his scheduled flight on Thursday. Feedback from the ALE route planning was a little less positive –
“In summary,” Lou said, “There’s crevasses everywhere…”
2 . R I D I N G T H E I L Y U S H I N T O U N I O N G L A C I E R
ON NOVEMBER 1st Lou left civilised society in the stomach of the Russian Ilyushin II-76MD. Equipped with turbofan engines and unpaved landing capabilities, this multi-use monster is often repurposed for zero gravity training and the transport of heavy machinery, including tanks. It’s a short flight in this rattling beast over the Drake Passage and on across the iceberg-sailed Southern Ocean to Earth’s last great frontier.
Once he arrives in Antarctica, Lou will touchdown on the broad expanses of the Union Glacier, where a 3km runway of naturally occurring stretch of blue-ice welcomes jet cargo aircrafts to the final vestiges of human influence, otherwise known as the Union Glacier Camp.
3 . A R R I V A L A T U N I O N G L A C I E R
THE full-service Union Glacier camp is seasonally occupied (November-January) and found near the remote Ellsworth Mountains, close to the snowy fin of Vinson Massif – the highest peak in Antarctica. For three months the camp acts as a logistics hub for scientists, tourists and South Pole teams before it is dismantled at the season’s end. The start-up crew is made up of mechanics, engineers, safety specialists, chefs, pilots and comms operators of mixed nationalities, including Brits, Canadians and Chileans… It’s here that Lou will wait for weather clearance, no doubt enjoying his last moments of company and comfort in the double-walled, dual-occupant Clam Tents with their high-tech nylon covering.
“For three months the camp acts as a logistics hub for scientists, tourists and South Pole teams before it is dismantled at the season’s end.”
The moment he has that window of clear weather, Lou will be crammed into a high winged, ski-fitted aircraft – most likely the De Havilland Canada Twin Otter DHC-6 – before rushing to his starting point at Hercules Inlet.
4 . L O U ' S D I A R Y
Oct 31 2018 – Arrival at Union Glacier
Good evening everyone, it’s Lou Rudd with the first report from Antarctica. Really pleased to say we flew 24 hours ahead of schedule from Punta Arenas in Chile, and at two o’clock this afternoon touched down in Union Glacier in Antarctica, which is the temporary holding camp that all expeditions come through, a tented base.
While I’m here I’ll be sleeping in my tent but I’ll be fed so I’m not breaking into my expedition food. It’s really a chance for last preparations, communications tests and just checking all my systems and that everything is working as it should do and is ready to go.
So I’ll be here now for at least 24 hours and then we’ll start. Once I’m ready and all the preparations done I’ll be in discussions with the operations team; we’ll have a look at the weather at my chosen start point and see if possible then to start planning to fly from here to get dropped at the start point – possibly within the next 24 hours, so I’m really excited about that.
For the first time, I’ve had a drag around of my pulk, the sledge I’ll be dragging behind me for a thousand miles, fully loaded with the 75 days of food and all the cooker fuel and the rest of my equipment. It’s a little bit daunting. It is really heavy. It’s way beyond anything I’ve ever hauled before, obviously doing this journey unsupported makes it a real challenge.
But, it can only get easier as I eat my way through my burden, so I’ll just keep thinking positive. Looking forward now to getting the final preparations cracked, and great to be back here in Antarctica. It truly is an impressive place. It was about -25 when we landed here today, very light winds, and the sun is shining. So absolutely stunning scenery and I’m really humbled to be here. I look forward to updating you all tomorrow. That’s all for tonight.
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