Antarctic Fox
The log of Rachel and Kevin Fox's trip to the Antarctic Peninsula in the Summer of 2008-9
Day 1: The Herc
December 26 - Punta Arenas, Chile - King George Island, Antarctica

Back from dinner after midnight, our evening consisted of reshuffling our bags, moving our toiletries and other daily essentials (pillow, Bill, etc.) from our South American travel bag to our Antarctica packs and duffle, and putting everything we wouldn't need in the next two weeks into our South American bag which would be kept landside until we passed this way again. By around 2am we were ready to catch a few hours sleep before waking at 6am and grabbing some breakfast before we caught our bus back to the airport.

Breakfast at the hotel was a surprisingly full spread, and our team were the only ones up so early on the day after Christmas. Daveen issued us our jackets and Rob distributed team hats and the rest of us filtered down two by two. until we were ready to leave at 7:15.

Attire for the day was full Antarctica gear: Lognjohns and jeans, our heavy coats and Wellington boots ('wellies'). The reasons were twofold: When we stepped off the aircraft we would be in Antarctica proper and would need the gear, and more importantly each of us had a 44lb checked bag weight restriction, and so wearing our heaviest items helped us stay under the limit!

Most people don't fly to Antarctica (they usually take the Drake passage, which will be the subject of a future post), and there isn't any regularly scheduled service. In our case, we were lucky enough to be able to piggyback off of a charter carrying a much larger group. For such trips an organization can charter a BAe-146, a high-wing jet capable of handling rough runways. The high wing helps minimize the damage caused when pieces of gravel fly up from the landing strip, and the undersides of the engine nacelles are coated with a rubberized paint to further deflect damage on takeoff and landing. The runway at King George Island is unpaved and consists mostly of dime-sized rocks, and this plane can handle that.

Of course, that's all great except when the weather at the landing site turns too warm (in this case, a few degrees above freezing) and the frozen material in the runway's foundation softens up a bit too much, in which case the BAe-146's landing gear is too small to support the aircraft's weight on a soft surface. In such circumstances you either have to wait for conditions to change or you need a heartier plane.

In our case, the heartier plane came in the form of a Hercules C-130 transport on loan from the Uruguayan Air Force. Unexpected, but an awesome way to start the day!

Boarding the Herc - The gravel runway on King George Island was too soft for the regular aircraft, so we got a ride with the Uruguayan Air Force on a Hercules C-130 transport. Sorry this is so loud, but it WAS! - Video by Kevin Fox
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Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride - Our ride to Antarctica was changed last minute so that we would be flying on a military Hercules. It was an incredible and surreal experience and a perfect beginning to an incredible and surreal trip! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Our airport experience was surprisingly mundane, going through security, hanging out in an empty terminal, and going down a rather long jetway to the tarmac. That was pretty much the end of normal, as we were given earplugs and we made our way into the body of the Hercules, down the two rows of bench seating and webbed backs (think paratroopers). The only six windows were about 4 inches across and hardened against artillery attacks.

Our Ride Awaits

Our Ride Awaits - Our ride to Antarctica was changed last minute so that we would be flying on a military Hercules. It was an incredible and surreal experience and a perfect beginning to an incredible and surreal trip! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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The stewardess look sharp on this flight...

The stewardess look sharp on this flight... - Our ride to Antarctica was changed last minute so that we would be flying on a military Hercules. It was an incredible and surreal experience and a perfect beginning to an incredible and surreal trip! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Yearning for the Sky

Yearning for the Sky - Our ride to Antarctica was changed last minute so that we would be flying on a military Hercules. It was an incredible and surreal experience and a perfect beginning to an incredible and surreal trip! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Meta Happy Boy

Meta Happy Boy - Kevin is about to have his first ride on a Hercules transport plane. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Babes on a Plane

Babes on a Plane - Daveen boarding our Hercules transport plane to Antarctica. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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WARNING

WARNING - I understand the warning, but I'm not sure why the directions for opening the door are on the outside! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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The Men with the Power!

The Men with the Power! - Our pilots! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Excited for Take Off

Excited for Take Off - Sara and Brian ready for take off! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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New Recruits

New Recruits - Alan and Daveen are good to go! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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The in-flight bathroom was a port-a-potty strapped to a cargo palette at the center aft of the plane. The in-flight movie was us staring at each other. :-)

The most important note, if you ever find yourself in a lightly-pressurized transport plane wearing brand new wellington boots: The boots are made to hold their shape and not expand much. Your feet are designed to expand a bit as pressure decreases. If you dislike pain, take your boots off once you're on the plane because the alternative is ow. Ow, ow, ow.

On the Herc - From our flight on this Hercules military plane from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica. - Video by Kevin Fox
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This is What I Call First Class!!

This is What I Call First Class!! - Seriously, its awesome! This is our flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, Antarctica! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Airman

Airman - Airman on our Hercules Transport from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica. His patch says: "Tripulacion Antartica C-130 Uruguay" - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Here come the Foxes

Here come the Foxes - The Hercules C-130 transport with the Fox family group and Rob lands at King George Island. - Photo by Tim Soper
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Touch Down

Touch Down - Our Hercules Flight reaches the ground. We have reached King George Island, next stop - the ship that will be our home for the next 12 days!! - Photo by Tim Soper
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Unloading from our Herc!

Unloading from our Herc! - About to set foot on an King George Island, a part of Antarctica. See the port-a-potty strapped in the back, that was our restroom. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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After a flight time of just under 3 hours (and it's pretty fun not being able to see out the window (and you're not prone to air-nausea as Rachel was) and bracing for landing, and bracing, and bracing, and bracing, and easing off, and jolt) we landed in Antarctica! We made it off the plane and met the second half of our guide duo, Tim. Tim's from southern England (near Devon) and has been running expeditions in the Arctic, Antarctic, and other locales for nearly a decade, and it runs in his family. Like Rob, Tim is awesome and we immediately took a liking to him.

Us and our Hercules

Us and our Hercules - We rode on this Hercules military transport from Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island in Antarctica. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Unloading

Unloading - Unloading our bags and those of the others on the Hercules. If you look in the middle you will see the port-a-potty that was our restroom on the flight. If you look closely you can see that it has fallen backwards (towards the camera) at an angle. That didn't stop Ingrid from using it! :) - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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From the landing strip we had a half-hour walk down to the beach where our Zodiacs were waiting to take us to the ship. The walk took us past the Chilean air base, helicopters taking off and landing, taking advantage of the rare clear weather. A bit further down the road we came across the waypost:

Welcome!

Welcome! - The Chilean base on King George Island, Antarctica! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Madrid, that way...

Madrid, that way... - Just in case you can't find your way home from King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Hello from Here!

Hello from Here! - Kevin and I (Rachel) from under the sign that tells you where you are in relation to everywhere else! We are on King George Island, Antarctica! - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Next along the path were two abandoned Russian amphibious haulers. They're just so anthropomorphic, like two wartfrogs (like a warthog and a frog) abandoned on the barren martian landscape.

Window to the Past

Window to the Past - Old abandoned tank at the Chilean base on King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Tank Two

Tank Two - Old abandoned tank at the Chilean base on King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Remnants of a Tank

Remnants of a Tank - Old abandoned tank on the Chilean base of King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Kevin Fox
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Russian Orthadox Church

Russian Orthadox Church - Up on the hill behind the Russian base on King George Island is this lovely Russian Orthodox Church. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Heading to the Ship

Heading to the Ship - Part of our walk through the Chilean base from the plane to the shore getting us ever closer to our ship and new home for the next 12 days! - Photo by Kevin Fox
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First Antarctic Native

First Antarctic Native - Brian poses with the first Antarctic native he has met at the Chilean base on King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Kevin Fox
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Painted Red

Painted Red - Tanks at the Chilean base on King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Kevin Fox
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Summer Use Only

Summer Use Only - On the beach of King George Island, Antarctica. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Base Colors

Base Colors - Not our bags, the bags of the other group from the plane. I think we had more, but you get the idea. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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At the shore, we make sure all our bags made it down from the Herc, and Rob says 'Hey, your first penguins!' Lo and behold, a small group of penguins are standing right behind us, completely casual. Our little welcoming party. Rob told us they were Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, and the chin straps were pretty clear. Little did we know just how much we'd learn about penguins over the next two weeks.

Chinnie Chin Chin

Chinnie Chin Chin - Our first penguin. We almost didn't notice them behind our bags as we were all interested in making sure we had all our bags. Our guides had to point them out to us so we could grab a few quick snaps before loading into zodiac boats to head out to he ship that would be our home for the next 12 days. - Photo by Rachel Lea Fox
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Our day's journey complete, we took the zodiacs to the Hanse Explorer anchored in the harbor, thinking our day mostly complete. It was the last time I'd think there would be an afternoon of rest for a good long time. We learned better quickly enough...

Read the next chapter: Day 1: Penguino


Table of Contents:

Introduction: Telling the Story posted Jan 10, 2009

Day 0: Positioning posted Jan 12, 2009

Leaving, on a jet plane posted Jan 12, 2009

» Day 1: The Herc posted Jan 15, 2009

Day 1: Penguino posted Jan 16, 2009

Day 2: Chicken posted Jan 17, 2009

Day 2: Leopard posted Jan 19, 2009

Day 2: Snow Day posted Jan 22, 2009

Day 2: Shipwreck posted Jan 26, 2009

Day 2: Totally Tabular posted Jan 27, 2009

Day 3: Gentoo Cute posted Jan 29, 2009

Day 3: Lichen Shag Glacier posted Feb 3, 2009

Day 3: Palmer Station Visit posted Feb 9, 2009

Day 4: Icy Penguins posted Feb 11, 2009

Day 4: Adelie Awesome posted Feb 15, 2009

Day 4: Leopard Seal Attack posted Feb 17, 2009

Day 4: Kayak posted Feb 19, 2009

Day 4: Vernadsky Station Visit posted Feb 23, 2009

Day 4: Vernadsky Sunset posted Feb 25, 2009

Day 5: Antarctic Circle posted Feb 27, 2009

Day 5: Polar Plunge posted Mar 5, 2009

Day 5: Mouth of The Gullet posted Mar 13, 2009

Day 5: Ice Camping posted Mar 18, 2009

Day 6: Flamingos on Ice posted Mar 20, 2009

Day 6: Mountain Climbing posted Mar 24, 2009

Day 6: Ice Textures posted Mar 26, 2009

Day 6: Antarctic New Years posted Apr 2, 2009

Day 7: Crystal Sound Icebreaker posted Apr 9, 2009

Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 1 posted Apr 17, 2009

Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 2 posted Apr 21, 2009

Day 8: Bird Watching in the Fish Islands posted Apr 23, 2009

Day 8: Icee Day - Part 1 posted May 5, 2009

Day 8: Icee Day - Part 2 posted May 11, 2009

Day 9: Port Lockroy - Base A posted May 20, 2009

Bonus Chapter: Baby Penguins! posted May 21, 2009

Day 9: Antarctic Humpback Whales posted June 3, 2009

Day 9: Dallmann Butt Sliding posted June 11, 2009

Day 10: Birthday Whales posted June 23, 2009

Day 10: Hannah Point Part 1: The Birds posted July 15, 2009

Day 10: Hannah Point Part 2: Elephant Seals posted July 22, 2009

Day 10: Deception Island - Part 1: Walking on the Moon posted Dec 11, 2009

Day 10: Deception Island - Part 2: The Martian Chronicles of Oz posted Dec 15, 2009

Day 11: Emperor Penguins posted Jan 8, 2010

Day 12: Black and White and Pink All Over posted Aug 4, 2011

More chapters posted every few days...



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