Jan. 18: Attempt #2: arrived in Antarctica

Trip Start Jan 13, 2014
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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Flag of Antarctica  , South Shetland Islands,
Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sat. Jan. 18
(Be sure to watch the VIDEO taken as we landed in Frei Station!)

At noon we were told the plan had changed AGAIN.  Our "window of oppurtunity" to land in Antarctica was SOONER than planned.  The weather at Frie Station (Chile’s most important base in Antarctica), our landing spot, had changed, , fog lifting, so  we would take off IMMEDIATELY and eat on the plane.  As we boarded the bus, no one seemed disappointed.

Remember:  each person is limited to 20 kilos of luggage, or about 44 pounds.  This includes all luggage, carry on, cameras, computers, etc.  We were to "Dress for Antarctica", meaning wear what we planned to wear while traveling off the ship in the Antarctic. 

Just imagine 68 people getting on a bus dressed for hiking across the frozen tundra.  "Dressing for Antarctica" requires you to prepare for the wind, wind chill and ocean spray.   There we were,  wearing long johns, jeans, shirt, two coats and water resistant outerwear.  High top boots are worn over liner socks and insulated socks.  Most people wore a scarf, hat, wicking gloves over warm gloves, or mittens, and the waterproof gloves for the time in the Zodiac.  Once we arrived at the airport we realized how hot we would be on the airplane so we started taking off what we could.

The charter flight was uneventful. It was two hours long.  The plane flies us to Antarctica and picks up the next group and returns to Punta Arenas.  So the "window" they talk about must allow the plane to fly over and back.  It fills up with jet fuel at Frei station (jet fuel is shipped over by water).  The first seats on each side hold large life rafts, which was a bit disconcerting.  It was cloudy so you could not see much out the windows. 

Lunch was three different triangle sandwiches, turkey with cream cheese and water chestnuts, egg salad and tuna salad (maybe).  There was also yogurt, a fruit cup, crackers, cheese, peanuts and an apple tart.  You could have whatever you would like to drink, beer, wine, mixed drinks, juices, coke, tea or coffee.

Everyone was instructed by the staff to use the restroom before exiting the plane.  There would not be another opportunity until we get aboard the ship (another hour)!  There is not a "terminal" at the air STRIP, just the landing place.

We were on a charted plane.  The only people on it were those in our group and some of the expedition "staff" and "crew" on our ship Ocean Nova.  Our aircraft was a BAE-146.  The plane had four jet engines and was specifically designed to stop on short fields.  This was a good thing because at Frie Station on King George Island, it took every foot to bring it to a stop. It was only 4239 feet long.

The runway was compacted crushed rock.    The plane stopped just at the end of the runway, and we exited the aircraft by a stairway and followed several orange cones away from the plane.  We then walked single file along the runway for about 300 feet.  At the end of the runway we turned north (no other way to turn) and began about a 30 minute hike down to the ocean to meet our ship.  Along the way we passed the "veteran" passengers who just left our ship heading for our aircraft, also walking in single file.  We were the "uninitiated!"

Half of this base belongs to Chile and half to Russia.  There is a Russian Orthodox Chapel high on the hill.

At the waters edge we were instructed how to enter a Zodiac.  We took a ten minute ride to the ship were we had to “bathe” our boots when we boarded the ship.  This is a process of stepping into a small chemical bath to make sure your boots did not bring anything from the continent.  This process was repeated EVERY time we boarded the ship.

We got settled in our cabin, very nice, not too big, smaller than a tent.  Our cabin is very nice, small, efficient.  We have a single bed on each side, and another bunk above each bed.  We opened one bunk to put clothes, etc. on, but left the second up so we could sit without bumpingour heads.  We have a tiny bathroom with a triangular shower and curtain, maybe 2 feet on each side.  We have a beautiful view out our cabin window.

We had a nice welcome cocktail introducing all the staff, a delicious dinner, and a drink in the window-surrounded lounge.  The ship captain (Russian) gave a toast.  The naturalist talked about what we might expect tomorrow, although plans change according to weather, etc.  The ship lifted anchor and we headed south.  We watched whales following our ship, and lots of sea birds looking for food in the water we churned up. 

It had been a long day, so off to bed.  It will never be dark in this area, so you have to rely on your watch to tell what time it is.  We were rocked to sleep by the motion of the ship.  The Ginger is working so far for motion sickness.

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Betsy on

Looks beautiful! Love your yellow outfits! So many great photos!

We have been reading our penguin book waiting for grandma to get home and read it to us.

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