Day 4 – Arrival in Antarctica
King George Island
Well the time had come to get my baggage down to 20kg. Unfortunately I failed. I just couldn’t seem to reach that illusive number, not without ditching a lens or two, my Mad Water dry-bag backpack and seriously start thinking about forgetting spare socks and under wear and even squirting out some toothpaste and shampoo. All was not lost though, as our amiable Antarctica XXI tour guide had let slip the night before that ONLY our check-in baggage would be weighed. Phew! I left the hotel with a check-in bag at 16.7kg, and a carry-on at 8.7kg … well over the limit I’m afraid, but a mere snip compared to some others!
All kitted out in our rubber boots and waterproof trousers, check-in turned out to be a breeze. Shortly after we were heading out on the tarmac to our Antarctic Airways, BAE-146, 4-engine jet; a high-wing aircraft with very short runaway requirements so ideal for our location. The flight, smooth and uneventful, taking just under 2 hours to reach our destination Aeródromo Teniente Marsh, at Frei Base on King George Island. The Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, to give it it’s proper name, is the most important Antarctic base for Chile, located on the Fildes Peninsula; an ice-free area sitting above Fildes Bay at the south western tip of King George Island, South Shetland Islands.
Once disembarked into the much colder Antartic air, we had an easy 20 minute walk from the airfield down through the Russian Bellingshausen base to the shoreline of Fildes Bay where our ship, the Ocean Nova, was anchored. There we had 20 minutes or so to explore the shoreline and Trinity Church, a small wooden, Russian Orthodox church, that sits on a hill above the station.
There are no docking facilities at Frei Station so transfer to the Ocean Nova is by Zodiac boats. Our first taste of what was to become a familiar procedure. Soon after we were all safely on-board, and having checked out our cabins, had lunch and attended the obligatory boat drill, we informed that we were setting sail across the Bransfield Stait to mainland Antarctica, heading for Cierva Cove. This was great news. Out Antarctic voyage was underway.