Punta Arenas to Rothera

February 13, 2016

Ted Scambos writes:

The Scar Inlet team spent 3 days in Punta Arenas, Chile completing some packing and checking of items, and then departed for Rothera Station (at the southern tip of Adelaide Island just off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula) early on Jan 26th, aboard the British Antarctic Survey Dash-7. The plane is configured as a half passenger, half cargo aircraft, and our hand-carry science gear flew in the front half of the cabin strapped to the floor. With us on the flight were some VIPs visiting the British base – Dr. Jane Francis, director of BAS, Sir Mark Walport, the chief science advisor to the UK government, Tim Stockings, the chief of operations of BAS, and Nick Folland, advisor to NERC (the UK’s environmental research funding agency). We chatted with them about our project and BAS’s role in it – and our great appreciation of BAS’s efficiency and support.


The BAS Dash-7, used for transporting passengers and light cargo to Rothera, and for staging of large field projects on smooth ice runway areas on the continent.

The flight was fantastic, a trip over rarely visited parts of the southernmost tip of South America and then out over the Drake Passage and the roughest ocean in the world. Four hours later we caught our first glimpse of the Antarctic Peninsula – a jagged land of black rocks struggling to emerge from a thick mass of ice. Stark but eternally beautiful, and almost always wreathed in clouds or blowing snow.

Our visit to the base was all about preparation: repacking, re-wiring, and testing sensors; and planning and organizing cargo into prioritized loads for the smaller field plane, the Twin Otter. These planes are truly amazing, able to land or take off in as little as 100 yards of smooth snow. We also went to ‘school’ – or in BAS terms, ‘Field Modules 1 to 4’: field camping, ropes and crevasse rescue, motorized snow transport, and field medical training.

The Rothera ‘Tucker Snow Cat’ vehicle during our ride back from the field camp training area. Rothera Station is just over and below the rocky ridge on the left.

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