December 8 – Final preparations in place

Listen to Audio of Wally's Call (.wav)

This is Wally Berg reporting from Punta Arenas. Since my last call you might imagine that life has been pretty boring around Punta as we wait for clearance for our flight on the Iylushin jet down at Patriot Hills, Antarctica.

And I can hardly say that because our life revolves around the radio sched’s and the contact with Jaco the meteorologist. We’ve been ready to go. I’ll describe a bit of that to you in this dispatch.

Will at the hostelThe weather report yesterday morning, Sunday, was not good from Jaco. He had 8 octers of stratus cloud over him, in other words complete cloud cover. The contrast is poor and the winds were quite high. It remained that way through most of yesterday but Jaco got his satellite image last evening and basically as late as 10:30pm we were ready to go out to the airport. The crew was set to go. We finally went to bed just before 5am this morning and I got a call and I got to the airport, you’ll recall we’ve already been out there once.

There’s a lot of interesting people on our flight, besides just Will, Gus and myself. In particular I enjoyed this morning meeting the crew and guys from Saskatchewan and Edmonton and one guy living in Missoula, Montana right now.

These are the guys that are going down to do the work on the DC 3 that was disabled when it blew away from its wind anchor down at Patriot Hills last year. Quite a project! These guys travel all over the world rescuing stranded aircrafts like this. I’m going to be real interested to see how they do.

But with that little aside out of the way, I have to mention that we got reports from Jaco after we were at the airport today that caused Rachel Shepard, the operations manager here, to pull the group together and give us the bad news that we were heading back in to Punta Arenas.

Quite a dejected crew out there. I’ll send some photos not only of that but also now that we’re back here in the sunny garden of our hostel in Punta, things are looking a little cheerier.

We know we will get down there eventually. It’s always a big deal to get transport down on to the ice. When Rachel had to give that news today she came over to me and said, “Well we’ve been through this before!”

Rachel Shepard gives us the newsShe and I and many of the other staff here have sat through a lot of waits to get down to the ice. That feeling you have when you step off the aircraft and you’re in the interior of Antarctica always makes it worth it. We’re just hanging on for our opportunity, which we’re sure is coming.

I did two things last night that is sort of the last step for me when I really think we’re going to go. I ran down to the market knowing they would be closed when I got up very early this morning to go to the airport as I would likely do and I bought our frozen vegetables. Of course when we are down on the ice you can take those bags of frozen peas or broccoli or something like that and they are great to carry around, they’re light weight, you throw them in your one-pot meals and they always make things a lot nicer when you have your dinners.

Frozen vegetables aren’t easy to store while you’re waiting in Punta Arenas, so I wanted to wait until the last minute to buy my frozen vegetables. I did not buy them before we went out to the airport for the first flight.

Nor did I put my Scarpa Phantom 8000 boots on – that’s the second thing I do when I really think we’re going to fly. This morning, I had the frozen vegetables and I had my Scarpa 8000 meter boots on rather than just my sandals. But I still had to come back to town.

We’re going to make it to Antarctica and we’re going to climb Vinson. Will, Gus and myself are still doing well, missing family and friends but determined get this hanging out out of the way. This is the hard part.

When we are down on the ice it will be worth it and, who knows, maybe as soon as 4 o’clock this afternoon or sometime through the night we’ll be back out at the airport giving it another shot.

This BAI expedition
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