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And below the 80th latitude…?

“Below the 40th latitude there is no law; below the 50th no god; below the 60th no common sense and below the 70th no intelligence whatsoever”
Kim Stanley Robinson

On the evening of Thursday 20th, Daragh and team flew to base camp at Patriot Hills in Antarctica. They had been on standby since 6.30am local time, waiting for the cross-winds at the Antarctic runway to fall below gusts of 20 knots, and finally received the go-ahead at 8pm for a 9pm flight. This means they wouldn’t have arrived at the camp until at least 2am, but all were glad to be moving on.

 
They had spent the previous few days loading food and supplies, pitching tents repeatedly and being briefed on Antarctic dangers, with much emphasis on frost-bite! Also some drinking in the Shakleton Bar, from where Shackleton organised the rescue of his men from the Antarctic ice. I imagined Marion’s Nepalese tavern from Raiders of the Lost Ark (anybody following me?), but apparently it was quite civilised; more like a gentlemen’s club.

The flight from Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills takes about 4.5 hours, crossing the winter limits of frozen sea at about 60 degrees south and the Antarctic Circle at 66 degrees, before reaching Patriot Hills at about 81 degrees. The landing runway is at the southernmost tip of Antarctica’s highest range of mountains, the Ellsworth Mountains. Katabatic winds funnel down from these mountains with great force (so you can see why wind-speed is such as issue!), but this allows the ice runway to remain free from snow.

More expedition logistics, acclimatising, more tent pitching, practise with clothing layers (gloves on – gloves off etc) is the plan for the next few days. There is one more flight – by ski-plane, back to the coast of Antarctica – when the team is ready. The current plan is for Monday.
- AH