Antarctic Logistics for expeditions: Getting on and off the Frozen Continent, part 2

Posted: Aug 01, 2006 01:20 pm EDT

( Besides ALE - running flights to and from Patriot Hills base - there are two other air companies operating in Antarctic regions: Russian-based ALCI operates flights from South Africa to Novolazarevskaya Base in Queen Maud Land (northern Antarctica); Chilean DAP offers flights and overnight stayings at King George Island, on the Antarctic Peninsula.

From Black to White continent: ALCI flights

"Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI) is a Russian-based group that runs out of Cape Town, South Africa, Antarctic climber and researcher Damien Gildea told ExplorersWeb. They just do IL-76 flights in to Queen Maud Land and then other internal flights, using a DC-3 or an Antonov. Their main business is government logistics for the bases there, but they take tourists and explorers as well, such as Mike Libecki's last two climbing trips to the big walls there.

Spanish Ramon Larramendis team and Norwegian Rune Gjeldnes also used ALCI services to be flown to the starting point of their Arctic traverses in 2005/2006. Ramons team was flown further up to the Antarctic Plateau for a kite-sledge crossing, whilst Rune started solo from the coast and traversed the continent via the South Pole solo, kite-supported and without resupplies.

The flight from Cape Town to Antarctica using ALCIs Ilyushin planes takes 6 hours.

Using an old ANI ice-strip

I assume they fly in to the old "Blue-1" ice runway (built by ANI), close to the old Russian base Novolazarevskaya, added Damien. Novo base can also be reached by ship and thus can be, at some cost and complication, used for private expeditions either linking with ALCI flights or just going overland. Ivar Tollefsen used a ship (plus helicopter) when he did the first climbing trip into the rock spires of Queen Maud Land in 1993, but he is the only one to have chosen this option - and that was really out of necessity (back then)."

"As for ALE, they no longer fly to Queen Maud Land on a regular basis but they can arrange a flight there upon request.

Ed. Note: ExplorersWeb has contacted ALCI for an updated schedules and price list.

Patagonia and further south: DAP flights to Ant. Peninsula

D'Aerovias Patagonicas (DAP) fly to the Teniente Marsh airstrip on King George Island at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (technically the South Shetlands), says Gildea. King George Island is actually a busy place: Numerous countries use the airstrip, even though bases there are also supplied by ships.

We arrived in KGI in December 03, on our way to Livingston Island. Back then DAP used to fly a small King Air plane that could transport about 6 people, but now they use a leased Dash-7 which can take 40 or so passengers. They seem to be doing OK so far with this service.

Antarctica in one day

They take tourists down for the day, sometimes overnight, from Punta Arenas to KGI and back. People check out the bases, see penguins and seals, icebergs etc. It's a quick and relatively cheap way to see Antarctica.

Many of DAP's clients are in fact passengers in cruises that stop in Punta for a day or two, added Gildea. Thanks partly to the Omega Foundation, DAP now has a BO105 helicopter stationed on KGI, where they have some basic accommodation facilities. This chopper can fly to surrounding islands and over to the mainland of the Peninsula, but has limited cargo space and range. DAP can not currently fly any real distance down the Peninsula, though this may change in the future.

Family business

DAP now also has a medium sized ship that does not take tourists but can take expeditions and other things so they can link up with KGI flights to go further south by sea. DAP is a family company, numerous diverse operations within it, but with the KGI/Antarctic stuff run by Nicolas Pivcevic, grandson of the company founder. In my opinion, a really nice family and good people.

DAP charges US$ 2300 per person for a full day in the Antarctic Peninsula, and US$ 2950 for an overnight stay, including guided activities, meals, etc (check the companys website for further info). They also run several flights and trips across Patagonia.

Queen Maud Land (in Norwegian Dronning Maud Land) is the part of Antarctica lying between the terminus of Stancomb-Wills Glacier, at 20°W, and Shinnan Glacier, at 44° 38'E. It has a land area of approximately 2,500,000 km², mostly covered by the Antarctic ice sheet. It was claimed by Norway on January 14, 1938, but this claim, like all others in the Antarctic, is not universally recognized and the area is subject to the terms of the Antarctic Treaty. Mountain ranges in the area include ice covered mountains and impressive granite spires rising from the ice - a paradise for big-wall climbers.

King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, situated at 62°23' S, 58°67' W, 120 kilometers off the coast of Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. It is approximately 95 kilometers long and 25 kilometers wide with a land area of 1150 square kilometers. Over 90% of the island's surface is permanently glaciated. The Island is both claimed by the United Kingdom and Argentina (where the Island is officially named "25 de Mayo"). Coastal areas include diverse wildlife such as Elephant, Weddell and Leopard seals; and Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.

Australian Damien Gildea has led seven expeditions to Antarctica, most of them launched by The Omega Foundation, a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to supporting scientific, environmental, educational and literary endeavors in the Antarctic region. He has achieved an impressive number of first ascents on peaks in the Antarctic ranges.

Damien is the author of The Antarctic Mountaineering Chronology (1998), the only reference book on mountaineering in Antarctica.


Penguin chick on King George Island. Image by Emilio Valera, courtesy of DAP.
Passengers step off an Ilyushin aircraft in Queen Maud Land, northern Antarctica. Image courtesy of ALCI (click to enlarge).