Jacob Schmitz called in from the broad, Union Glacier, after welcoming our January Vinson expedition to Antarctica. After flying from southern Patagonia and over the Antarctic Peninsula, Rich and Mattij took those first memorable steps off the Ilushyn 76 cargo jet onto the blue ice runway.
It is a truly bizarre and amazing experience to step from the dropped gangway at the back of the jet an onto what seems like the world’s largest hockey rink. The Union Glacier is thick, compact and enormous, all of which make it ideal for landing a big jet in multiple directions, depending on wind direction. In years past, we used to fly into a glacier that was subject to frequent cross winds, preventing the plane from landing with frustrating regularity. The Union Glacier strip allows flights to land much more frequently.
The plan is to board ski-equipped Otter aircraft to fly the relatively short hop to the Branscomb Glacier, from where they will start to climb Mount Vinson. At the moment, there are low clouds obscuring the approach to Base Camp, so our Vinson expedition is on standby.
When the clouds part, the climbers will load their kit onto the Otter for the 20+ minute flight to the Branscomb. The Branscomb snakes its way from a saddle between Mount Vinson and neighboring Mount Shinn. It is relatively narrow, and pilots need good visibility in order to negotiate take offs and landings. Our December Vinson expedition had to wait almost a week for clouds to move out, so they could fly back to Union Glacier. Fingers crossed that this team will be able to fly soon!
We’ll keep you posted with phone calls from the team. Weather and the far southern latitudes can often prevent good satellite phone conversations, but we have other means of communicating with out team, and we’ll post regular updates on their progress.
For an overview of our Mount Vinson expedition, please read the itinerary on our Vinson webpage.