As I write this post, I am sitting in a hotel in Punta Arenas, Chile, looking out at the huge panorama of the Magellan Straits, with the snow-capped hills of Tierra Del Fuego just visible on the far side. In the foreground, a Chilean chap has just driven his car into a lamp-post and is standing staring at it forlornly.
The week before I flew down here started with a brilliant mediaeval-themed leaving party, generously hosted by my parents. After that though, it became very hectic, and my excitement about going was somewhat reduced by the stress of the million little jobs I had left to do, and the pain of saying tearful goodbyes to everyone who I wouldn’t see for 18 months. By the time I got dropped off at Heathrow I was exhausted and felt like I needed a holiday!
Fortunately, things started to brighten up once I had checked my bags in and met up with my colleagues. There were 7 of us travelling down to Punta together, where we would join the very first Dash-7 flight of the season into Rothera. Once we had settled down to wait for the gate to open, and cracked open the first beer, I finally relaxed enough for the excitement to start coming back.
The journey was long, though not too arduous. The first hop was a couple of hours over to Madrid, and then an overnight long-haul to Santiago in Chile. After a few hours of sunbathing in the hot sunshine outside Santiago airport, we took a 4 hour domestic flight that flew down the Andes and into Punta. This last leg was amazing, as the air was very clear and we had a stunning view of the vast glaciers and lakes of the Andes – somewhere I’m now desperate to visit in the future!
Having reached Punta, we had a a day or two of downtime to explore the town (which doesn’t take very long) before being joined by a couple of the BAS pilots who had had a busy few days flying the Dash-7 down the length of the Americas, from its winter holiday in Canada to the Southern tip of Chile.
Having got this far, I was pretty desperate to make the final hop across the Drake passage to Antarctica, but unfortunately the luck ran out at this point. The pilots and the Met Office forecaster met up this morning to examine the weather conditions and made the decision that it was too risky, due to bad weather down in Rothera. Therefore fingers crossed for tomorrow morning, when we meet up again with baited breath, to find out whether conditions have improved enough for us to fly!