Still waiting for planes

The team camped outside the Amundsen-Scott base at the Pole for several days, before being flown back to Patriot Hills base camp on the Antarctic coast last Tuesday. Daragh’s original flight from Chile back to the UK was booked for today, arriving at Heathrow on Monday 12th, but unfortunately he remains at Patriot Hills for the time being, waiting for the wind to die down enough for a plane to land and fly the team back to Chile.

The landing runway at Patriot Hills is at the southern tip of Antarctica’s highest range of mountains and the winds funnel down with great force. This keeps the runway free from snow, but also means the wind needs to be below 20 knots (I think) for a plane to land.

When we spoke on Saturday, Daragh was expecting it to be several more days before this happened and I have postponed his flights home accordingly. I will also need to buy fresh ‘Welcome Home’ helium balloons, although Conor is getting his money’s-worth from the ones we already have!

The positives of being at base camp are that the team can rest and eat, and as Daragh pointed out, although they are still living on the ice in tents, they are extremely comfortable compared with what has gone before! A down-side, however, is that their cold-related injuries – frost-bite plus unspecified cold-induced damage to knees and thighs – are of course not healing yet. I don’t honestly think they will really begin to recuperate properly until they are back in a normal climate.

The other issue is boredom and not knowing how long they need to wait. Daragh can receive email though, so I have passed all of the messages from our hotmail and the visitor book through to the email at Patriot Hills. Thank you from me for all the lovely messages, and many more thanks from Daragh, who will be reading them and thinking of everyone back home until the weather improves. Unfortunately he can’t reply, so it’s one-way traffic at the moment.

On Tuesday Jeremy remained at the Pole, having chosen to undertake the return journey by kite and waiting for better visibility before setting out. (Blog from 1st January has more info.) I previously thought this would take him about 10 days – that is actually the minimum time. He can only use the kite when visibility is good (unlike Team Le Chiele, who perfected the shouting method of navigation) so the time needed could be anything between 10 days and four weeks.

And a photo!

I will try to get a more professional link here, but in the meantime you can see a photo of Team Le Cheile arriving at the Pole by going to www.gigapan.org and searching for ‘Le Cheile’. The photos were taken by someone working at the Pole. It first appears as a long, thin and very distant shot (I think it’s several pictures side by side), but if you click on the part you want to see, a tool appears over on the left for you to zoom in.

And in case you don’t recognise him(!), Daragh is the man on the far right, wearing blue.

- AH