Day 1: Departure from Punta Arenas to
In the morning, you will be called at your hotel to advise you of current conditions in Antarctica. If the weather is suitable for our flight to Patriot Hills, you will be given just under an hour to prepare before being picked up at your hotel by bus and taken to the airport.
The flight time from Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills is approximately 4.5 hours. The initial part of your flight passes over Tierra Del Fuego, or “Land of Fire”, so named by Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan), for the native Yahgan people's campfires that illuminated its shores. The ocean south of Tierra del Fuego, the Drake Passage, has been notorious throughout modern history for its wild storms, violent winds and heavy seas. At approximately 60 degrees south, the flight reaches the winter limits of frozen seas.
This area of ocean is called the Antarctic Convergence and is rich in plankton and other tiny creatures that form the base of the food chain for Antarctica's rich bird and wildlife colonies. You are now entering the area governed by the Antarctic Treaty. At 66 degrees south, cross the Antarctic Circle. Along this circle the sun never sets at the austral summer solstice and never rises at the austral winter solstice. Further south, Antarctic days and nights lengthen until at the South Pole the sun rises and sets only once a year.
Continuing on the flight south and if cloud conditions co-operate, below you may see tabular icebergs and the ice shelves from which they calve.
Your first sight of the icy continent is Charcot Island, close to Alexander Island, at 71 degrees south. These islands lie in the Bellingshausen Sea, west of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The ice sheet continues to stretch inland until in the distance appear the spectacular Ellsworth Mountains, the highest range in Antarctica. Fly south along the Ellsworths to their southernmost extension, the Patriot Hills, where the runway comes into sight.
The wheeled aircraft lands on an area of blue ice that is approximately 2600 ft (800 m) above sea level. The blue ice remains clear of snow due to katabatic winds that funnel down from the mountains with great force.
On arrival you will be warmly welcomed and directed to the camp approximately half a mile (1 km) away. At camp you will meet the friendly staff who will show you to your accommodation and invite you to sit down to a welcoming meal. Overnight Patriot Hills Camp.
Day 2: Orientation of Patriot Hills Camp,
The South Pole group will meet in the morning for an orientation to Patriot Hills and Antarctica. Your guide will brief you on environmental and safety considerations for your time on the ice and update you on logistics and weather for your journey to the South Pole. You will tour camp to discover the intricacies of daily life in Antarctica and hear about the range of activities that are available to enjoy at Patriot Hills.
The rest of the day provides an opportunity to acclimatize to your new surroundings and participate in optional, light activities. Overnight Patriot Hills Camp.
Days 3 - 6: Visit to South Pole and exploring Antarctica
Your South Pole flight will take place on the first day that weather and logistics permit. Days before and after the visit to 90° south round out your Antarctic adventure, with opportunities to explore life in and around Patriot Hills camp as well as to enjoy the tranquillity and majesty of Antarctica—experiences you will not encounter anywhere else on earth.
South Pole Flight Day
After breakfast and a final weather check by the pilots and the guide, pack up and head as far south in the world as humanly possible. While the plan is to return the same day, the flight will be carrying sleeping bags, equipment and food on board, in case the weather turns. A “typical” South Pole visit is described below.
Given the unpredictability of Antarctic conditions and the need to coordinate our visit with South Pole station personnel, exact details and itinerary for your South Pole Flight Day may vary from what is described. The flight to the pole will take approximately 6 hours from Patriot Hills over the high, polar plateau. Below, you will see wind affected snow called sastrugi, the occasional field of crevasses, and an endless expanse of white. En route, stop at Thiel Mountains to re-fuel the aircraft.
The fuel cache marks the approximate half-way point between Patriot Hills and the South Pole. The re-fuelling will last about an hour and will give us a chance to stretch your legs before the remainder of the flight. As you approach 90 degrees south you will catch sight of the South Pole station in the distance. The United States of America maintains a research station at the South Pole, named the Amundsen–Scott Station in memory of those intrepid explorers. The effective elevation of the Geographic South Pole is between 11,000 – 13,000 ft (3,300 – 4,000 m). The visit to the pole will last approximately 3-4 hours.
On arrival, the group is met by a representative of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and escorted inside the station. Following our station visit, return outside to the Geographic South Pole. Here, at the southernmost point on earth, all 360 lines of longitude meet and beneath your feet the ice is almost 10,000 ft (3000 m) thick. You are part of a very select and very limited group of people who have journeyed this far south on our planet.
The completion of this incredible journey will be the return flight to Patriot Hills over the polar plateau. Once back at Patriot Hills camp there will be a celebration dinner to toast this wonderful achievement — a marvellous adventure that so few have lived!
Patriot Hills Days
During your stay at Patriot Hills you can be as active or as relaxed as you wish. Your guide will organize a daily program of activities, based on group interests and weather conditions. Some of the active pursuits you can enjoy include: Snow-machine assisted tours to the local mountains; excursions to view unusual ice and rock formations nearby; an ascent of the Patriot Hills with panoramic views of the Ellsworth Mountain Range; opportunities to learn and practice cross-country skiing; short walking trips across the vast polar landscape; and navigation lessons. Photographers will enjoy the unusual wind-sculpted snow features, ice pools, dramatic peaks, spectacular open skies and cloud formations, as well as the golden light cast by the midnight sun.
In camp, the experienced staff will share their knowledge of the icy continent, giving talks on diverse themes. You can join the meteorologist for weather observations; learn rope handling skills, track expeditions as they make their way southward; carve snow sculptures, play indoor games and exchange stories with some of the other adventure travelers you meet on your journey. The variety of activities available is only limited by your enthusiasm and imagination.
Day 7: Return to Punta Arenas
Weather permitting, the aircraft from Punta Arenas will arrive in Patriot Hills on the scheduled departure day with a new collection of intrepid explorers and will depart with your group for the final leg of your Antarctic journey. Once the flight is confirmed, our client service staff in Punta Arenas will make hotel reservations on your behalf.
In Punta Arenas you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. You will be assisted wherever possible with any questions you may have. You are going to the interior of Antarctica, one of the most difficult places in the world to fly to. Every effort will be made to keep to the scheduled
departure date, but please note that all flights are dependent on weather, aircraft serviceability, and local conditions. Days of delay are part of the Antarctic travel experience and should be expected. Our Punta Arenas staff will keep you informed of any schedule changes.
Please note that you are traveling to an expedition base camp situated in the interior of Antarctica, the most isolated and windiest continent on earth. Every effort will be made to follow the above itinerary but it is offered subject to change at the discretion of staff based on weather, aircraft serviceability, and local conditions. You will be accommodated and looked after in Patriot Hills during any flight delays to Punta Arenas.
Days of delay are a normal part of Antarctic travel. DO NOT plan anything important for a minimum of two weeks after your scheduled return. Give yourself time to enjoy this unique experience without the stress of pending commitments. If possible, international airline tickets should be allowed to have date changes.