Antarctica Intrepid Travel

Mountain Highs

I am up later than anticipated, too much wine the night before. I don’t expect to see Max for some time but to my surprise he is already in the cook tent drinking his coffee. I give him an enquiring look but he doesn’t respond, so I ask the usual, direct question. Max tells me he has already been at the Met tent checking out weather conditions. The forecast for White Fields, the intermittent stop on the way to the Pole, is not good and it would be taking too much of a chance to fly. It would be dishonest not to admit that the thought crosses my mind that perhaps Max just doesn’t feel like going today, particularly as he must have drunk as much as anyone the night before.

I can’t even begin to hide my disappointment and really feel the days are ticking ominously by. Perhaps there won’t ever be a time when the weather conditions are perfect enough to make the whole journey. Max sees my impatience and concern but says he will only go when he feels all the elements are in our favour and there is a very good chance of making it all the way. He knows Ian and I are scheduled to fly to the South Pole as part of Adventure Network’s commitment to us but that can only occur when it is likely to be a successful flight back as well as flying out. Otherwise the costs involved of starting the series of flights and not completing would be exorbitant. I wonder about hiring personally and ask the price if anyone was to hire the Cessna privately. Max tells me it’s a staggering $2,500 per hour!

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On an overall round trip taking well over 12 hours I can see immediately how costly this whole exercise of travelling to the South Pole would be. It again makes me realise how honourable Annie Kershaw has been and the special ethos of her company in agreeing to go ahead with the expedition, with only Ian and myself going to the Pole and Hans and Christian to Mount Vinson. Even though so many of those planning to come didn’t follow through as she had expected, Annie still went ahead with her commitment to us. She must be making a considerable loss overall. There’s no choice, I have to wait it out and hope the weather conditions will improve and more importantly that Max will consider they have improved sufficiently for him to take us.

Max reminds me that the Amundsen-Scott Station at the Pole is run on New Zealand time, being the closest country, which means it is 17 hours ahead. If we want to arrive with sufficient time to tour the base, assuming that we are allowed in, then we have to time our departure from Patriot Hills accordingly. The base is only officially open 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., again New Zealand time. Several of the staff have also arrived now and we start arguing about the possible times we could arrive at the Pole Base Camp. It’s surprising, given that most have spent months out here, how widely different are their calculations and answers.

Eventually I am forced to write out a schedule of possible flight departures and flying times, showing expected arrival times, before everyone finally accepts one formula. We agree, assuming there are no unusual problems, that the flight time is 6 hours, not including the stopover at White Fields. That means that if we leave here at 9 a.m. we should arrive there on local time shortly after 8 a.m. the next day; if we left here at 4 p.m. we should arrive after 3 p.m. the next day. Ideally then we should always try to leave in the morning, to allow for problems and delays and provide us with sufficient time to tour around the base.

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