Weather: Beautiful day in PA. Sunny and 12 degrees
Shippam Shape: Outstanding
Today we had our briefing with ALES. The current update in Patriot Hills is:
windspeed 18 knots
gusting to 24 knots
Visibility 12 km
We did our final gear packing and came in just under the team limit – we are allowed 52 kg per person all in, and we had 352 kg (team limit 354). Dale won the pool guessing the weights everyone backpacks came in between 17-19 kg with the exception of Dave ( the guide) who of course being mega-experienced had a pack at 13 kg. The sled bags weighed in mostly in the 32-39 kg range – mine was the heaviest – however that means I have most of the food so all in all I think I chose correctly!
We will wait to hear around 9:30am tomorrow re: leaving tomorrow, however things are not likely given the low cloud ceiling around the landing strip. The strip is blue ice and maintained as required by snowblowers. The wind comes in from the south pole and loses altitude – it sublimates the snow/ice on the surface, hence you have this undulating pockmarked blue ice that the plane lands on. For landings there are 2 guys on the runway with signal mirrors to guide the plane in. There is instrumentation of the wind on the runway which gets relayed from Patriot Hills to the ALES office in PA and this then dictates when we fly. The Ilyushin plane IL76 is a Russian built plane, intended for Siberia and ideally suited to the cold weather. There is a cockpit and a separate navigator´s bubble. It is a cargo plane that holds 17 tonnes. There are very few windows. The cargo sits in the middle of the plane and the passengers around the outside. The plane lands and then they stall the engine and use the differential flaps to keep it straight on the runway – there are no brakes as we are basically on a giant ice rink. No flight attendants but bread, cheese and pop is served.
As a team this is one of the difficult times as we have to wait – they say there are no forecasts just nowcasts – hence we will know we are going when we are going…….