Monday, December 29, 2014

What "It's On" Really Means.....

Hi, Judy here. So, I am out for a nice late afternoon power walk with one of my best friends, and I get the call from Randy and Anders that I have been waiting for but also dreading, "It's on...We just got the call and have 20 minutes to get ready, and we are off.  Heading to the ice. We love you, and we'll call you when we can."   Oh boy, here we go again....

So what does "It's on" really mean?  Well, first of all "the ice", as they refer to Antarctica, is the fifth largest continent and is actually 98% ice.  In fact, it holds 90% of the world's ice, averaging over a mile deep. It is the coldest and windiest continent, and with a mean altitude of 7500 feet,  3 times the average elevation of any other land mass, with winds at times over 100 mph.  It is an intensely frigid, bad ass place. A few thousand people stay there from time to time doing various types of research, but there is no indigenous population.  There is scant vegetation and very few animals besides some very hardy penguins and seals.    I guess anyplace that has a "high" temperature still with a negative sign in front of it isn't exactly a desirable destination.  But, by about midnight tonight, Randy, Anders and the rest of their intrepid team will arrive on that ice, and, remarkably, be thrilled to be there!

They are currently flying across the Antarctic Ocean in a Russian cargo plane, about a 5 hour trip from Punta Arenas in very southernmost Chile, where they've been waiting for the winds to die down so the plane was cleared to go. They will land on a desolate, windswept icy landing strip called "Patriot Hills".  The team will be flying in all their intense cold weather mountain gear: thick down parkas and pants, triple boots, gloves that look like oven mitts, and many, many layers underneath it all.  Basically they will look like they are going for a walk on the moon.  Depending on the weather when they arrive in Patriot Hills, they will either set up camp and wait for clear weather, or fly on a ski-equipped Twin Otter to Vinson Base Camp, (about 7000 ft), about an hour away by air.

Here's a picture of the Russian cargo plane:

And here is a somewhat intimidating picture of the natural "landing strip" at Patriot Hills (from an earlier expedition):

Hopefully their satellite phone will work and they will call me with updates after they land.  I'll update the blog as I hear from them.  Send positive thoughts and feel free to leave comments for when they return!

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