I woke with a start at 5AM. There was still no news about my bags, and so I began calling and emailing the airlines to try and get some news. We were warned that at 6AM we may get a call to get ready to leave. With the winds so variable, we had to take advantage of any lull in the weather. In fact the weather was beautiful in Punta Arenas, and the town reminded me of a cross between the South of France and Canada, in style and architecture. However, the key wasn’t the weather here, but the weather there.
The Ilyushin 76 has a very large tail fin and so is limited on ice to cross winds of 18 knots. Yet again, the weather was working in my favour, giving me yet another chance to get my bags. At 9AM I got a call on my hotel room phone that made me jump, and set my heart racing. Was this was the call to leave for the Antarctic without my own equipment or the call to say my bags had finally arrived? In fact it was neither, as the organisers were giving an update on the situation, but the way I reacted indicated to me how stressed I was. I had replaced all essential kit, so I wasn’t worried about that, but all the comfort items that I had spent lots of time and money preparing would be missing. And they were the key difference between surviving the trip and enjoying the trip. I suffered at the North Pole and hard lessons had been learnt, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t suffer again.
The flight was delayed at least for another 12 hours, which meant I might get another shot at retrieving my bags…if they can be found! But it could be a close run thing as the baggage might arrive as we had to leave…again, I was left stressed and frustrated with the baggage handlers. Fortunately, the wind was still working in my favour, and a further update delayed possible take off until 6AM tomorrow due to continuing high winds.
I’ve promised the sponsors at Renaissance Services that I would make part of my journal about raising awareness on environmental issues and the wind has given me an idea for a topic: Wind Energy. Some might think, with all this wind power, why isn’t anyone building wind farms here at the bottom of the Earth. The answer: they have. It started this year with an 8-turbine wind farm built by Belgium to power its research base at the pole, and New Zealand is scheduled to inaugurate a wind farm at Antarctica sometime this year. Oman is also on the way to developing wind and solar projects, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back and consider all our problems solved. We need to get interested and get involved.
Getting any information about the bags was very difficult, and some of it was contradictory. I was told almost simultaneously that one bag was in Punta Arenas, and one bag was in Sao Paulo, both bags were in Brazil, both bags were in London, both bags were lost, and then finally they would both be with me by 10PM. As you can imagine, this didn’t really help matters, and late in the afternoon I went for a hard fast walk around the town in the rain.
Punta Arenas is at 53 degrees South, which is almost as far South as Leeds (UK) is North. Although England is in the midst of the worst winter in ages, in the southern hemisphere it is summer, with sunset around 10PM. By the time I got back to the hotel, ready for dinner, an airline representative had appeared with one of my bags! I should have been elated, but my main feelings were of relief. The bag had been secured with a padlock, which was now open, but as far as I could tell, nothing had been taken, and I was now 50% of my way to having a much more comfortable expedition.