ALE says they can go. The first flight out to the frozen continent was scheduled for last Saturday, but due to poor weather, it was delayed until yesterday. But that first flight has now gotten off without a hitch, and the first travelers to Antarctica for the season are now out on the ice, including American Aaron Linsdau, who hopes to make a round-trip journey from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back again.
If you've been following Aaron's progress so far, you probably know that he had his gear weighed and stowed on an ALE airplane since Sunday. Over the past few days he's been on standby, waiting for word from the company as to when he would go. That word came yesterday, when he boarded the first Ilyushin aircraft bound for Union Glacier, and several hours later he found himself in the Antarctic. The flight was a late one however, so he ended up simply setting up camp and turning in for the night.
Today will be have a much more ambitious schedule as Aaron says he'll spend the day testing his gear and getting everything read for his departure. If everything comes together as he expect, he'll set out for the South Pole tomorrow, lugging all of his gear and supplies behind him as he goes.
The round-trip journey will cover approximately 1430 miles (2300 km) and will take upwards of 90 days to complete. He'll spend the first several weeks of the expedition climbing from sea level at the coast up to the top of the Antarctic Plateau, gaining approximately 3000 meters (9800 ft) in the process. After that, it is a relatively flat run to 90ºS, although he'll still be dealing with cold temperatures, high winds, whiteout conditions and lots of sastrugi, which are notorious for slowing progress and sapping a the strength out of the legs.
Of course, I'll be following Aaron's progress over the next few months while he attempts this epic journey. Look for regular updates, along with other Antarctic news, as the season really cranks up.