Well...it didn't happen. The conditions at Union Glacier remained incorrect for plane landing, in order to pick us up and take us back. This was frustrating for us, but there was such a bottleneck there that some people had been waiting for 8 days, so we should count ourselves lucky. Union Glacier itself was a glorious sight after 13 days of flat, white landscape in every direction. There was clear skies, no wind, and a beautiful amazing mountain range.
Union Glacier houses the most astonishing selection of people; I immensely enjoyed several fascinating conversations with amazing people. They included a bacteriologist and a world leader on climate change who - would you believe it - was once a student at St Bede's school just a few miles away from my home! I learned how we can manage cancer by food, which entirely depends on the individual, and am looking forward to telling people about this in my presentation series.
The coincidences don't end there, as the headmaster of local Caterham school, Julian Thomas, had only a few days previously completed his trek to the South Pole all the way from the coast of Antarctica and in Punta Arenas (which seems to primarily be a holding ground for people travelling to/from Antarctica) I met people from Norwood hill who know some family friends!
We ended up flying into Punta Arenas on one of the last flights out of Antarctica of the season, arriving on the evening of 21st January (just five hours later than we should have flown home!) and staying there for the day before flying home on the morning of 23rd January.
|The arrivals hall|
|The collection party at arrivals|
|Happy to be back on British soil|
|What a welcome!|
As much as both Conrad and I were desperate to get home after what ended up being 18 days on the ice (and 11 days trekking), Punta Arenas felt positively luxurious. The reality is that even in the days preceding the walk I was camping in the snow at high altitude and very low temperature, with no access to washing water or flushing loos. We also spent a day and a half training at Union Glacier before going forward to 88°S, which in itself was no mean feat.