The only privately owned Antarctic base opened for the 2009 season a few days ago, allowing explorers, scientists, mountaineers, and adventure travelers, access to the frozen continent for the first time since January. Commonly known as Patriot Hills, the base is operated by Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE), a company that supports the adventurous men and women who are traveling to the South Pole or other locations on the Antarctic continent.
Traditionally, the base opens in November and remains open for approximately three months, allowing expeditions to come and go from Punta Arenas, Chile, a city found at the far tip of South America that is often used as the staging ground for adventurers heading to Antarctica. Patriot Hills sits at the edge of a rare, naturally occurring blue ice patch that serves as a runway for ALE’s Twin Otter and Illushyn aircraft, which makes it the perfect place to shuttle visitors to and from the ice.
The travelers making the journey to Antarctica come for a number of reasons. Some will make the long, 500 mile journey to the South Pole on skis, while others will trek to nearby Vinson Massif to climb one of the seldom visited mountains there. Adventure travelers with enough money will also make a “last degree” journey to the Pole, beginning their journey at 89ºS and ending when the reach the bottom of the world.
Over the next few months, Patriot Hills will be a bustling community of explorers coming and going from a variety of places in Antarctica. The tent-city will serve as a base of operations for a number of interesting and unique expeditions, all coming to visit one of the last true frontiers on Earth.