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The long journey South

Posted by Jennifer Loxton Jan 17, 2012

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Antarctica is a long way away from the UK. In fact flying down there covers a distance of approx. 16,000 km/10,000miles! (London, UK to Rothera, Antarctica via Chile). For a journey this lengthy tracking the passing of time in hours or miles can seem daunting. I choose to instead track my journey progress by meals:

Day 1 - lunch: London, UK

The journey begins. After checking in I start my hunt for the rest of the British Antarctic Survey group travelling South. I decided the best way to identify Polar travellers was to look for a group, predominantly male, with a greater than average tendancy towards fleeces and beards. After terrifying a few innocent skiing stag parties with my rictus grinning I thankfully found our group (just the one beard!) and after introducing ourselves we head to the plane.


Day 1 - dinner: Madrid, Spain

A short lay-over in Spain. Long enough to get a little lost in the rainbow coloured airport, find everyone again and enjoy a relaxed dinner. Our next flight was ready to depart shortly before midnight.


Day 2 - breakfast: midair Argentina/Chile

After a great sleep I get woken to breakfast over the mountains.


Day 2 - lunch: Santiago Chile

We battle our way through the ever confusing Chilean immigration and customs at bustling Santiago airport before checking back in for the next leg of our flight. Once we are through the red-tape it is time for us to settle down to some nice Chilean delicacies for lunch. From here the planes get progressively smaller.


Day 2 - dinner: Punta Arenas, Chile

Dinner time finds us in Punta Arenas - a bustling frontier town with a long history as a gateway to the Antarctic. More about Punta in a seperate post


Day 3 - breakfast + lunch: Punta Arenas, Chile

Unfortunately the weather in Antarctica slightly delays our next leg so we get an unexpected breakfast and lunch in Punta Arenas while we wait for more favourable conditions. Thankfully a "weather window" pops up for us late in the afternoon and we head to the airport to board our smallest plane yet, the twin propeller, dash-7.


Day 3 - dinner: mid-air over Antarctica

Travel on the dash-7 is a little different to commercial airlines. It is a small, friendly plane with only twenty passengers. The pilots fly with their cabin door open and once the seatbelt sign is off we are all encouraged to pop up for a visit to the cockpit. Dinner is a picnic with supermarket bought delicacies from Chile although I find it hard to eat with the excitement of finally arriving in Antarctica.


Day 3(just) - midnight snack: Rothera, Antarctica

Suddenly the cloud starts to clear and peeking through the gaps are spectacular mountains, glaciers, and sea-ice all lit by the glow of the midnight sun. Our ever thoughtful pilots take us for a flyby so that we see Rothera and the surrounding areas from all angles before we draw in to land.


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I have arrived ar Rothera, Antarctica - my home for the next couple of months.



Jen's research is being undertaken as a collaboration between:
Heriot Watt University, Natural History Museum, UMBS, Millport, and the British Antarctic Survey.




Jen is funded by the NERC Collaborative Gearing Scheme and Heriot Watt Alumni Fund and sponsored by Catlin Group Limited, Apeks Marine and O'Three.