Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) has opened a new base of operations in Antarctica that will serve as a launching point for mountaineers looking to climb nearby peaks, explorers skiing to the South Pole, and other adventurous travelers looking to experience the frozen continent. The outpost is located at Union Glacier and replaces a similar base, known as Patriot Hills, that had been in use for more than twenty years.
The new base has been in development for more than four years and includes a runway built out of blue ice. That runway allows ALE to fly Russian built Ilyushin jets from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica, delivering explorers and adventure travelers to the ice. The Union Glacier base has a heated passenger terminal for visitors to stay in while they wait for the two specially designed 4×4 vans to shuttle them to the actual camp, which sits at the foot of Mt. Rossman, roughly five miles away from the airstrip.
The camp itself offers accommodations for 80 guests and includes a complimentary meal service. The base has been built from the ground up to be environmentally friendly and more efficient than the old camp at Patriot Hills, while delivering a more comfortable space for Antarctic travelers. Nearby, there are a series of groomed trails that have been clearly marked to indicate safe and dangerous areas along the glacier, allowing visitors to hike and ski through the remote and scenic area.
If all goes as planned, and weather permitting, ALE will fly its first guests to Union Glacier today. Amongst those first visitors will be adventurers skiing to the South Pole and climbers headed to Mt. Vinson, the tallest mountain on the continent. But clearly the base opens new opportunities for adventure travelers to visit Antarctica as well, offering them a host of new experiences, albeit at a price.
[Photo credit: Laurens via WikiMedia]