Accommodation Facilities in Antarctica
The Antarctic Ice Marathon camp is located in the southern Ellsworth Mountains on the broad expanse of Union Glacier. The setting is spectacular and the accommodation is comfortable. Majestic peaks rise in all directions and there is little wind, providing a comfortable environment to relax and take it all in.
The camp is 1,883 miles (3030km) from the southern tip of Chile and just over 600 miles (1000km) from the Geographic South Pole. The precise geographic location is 79°46'S 82°52'W and the elevation is 2,297ft (700m) above sea level.
Only Accessible by Air
Union Glacier Camp is only accessible by air and the journey involves a 4 ¼ hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile. The wheeled IL-76 aircraft lands on a naturally-occurring ice runway on the Union Glacier, where competitors take their first steps in Antarctica. They will then climb aboard a specially adapted van for a 5 mile (8km) ride to camp, where a warm welcome awaits them.
The Only Facility of its Kind
Union Glacier is the only facility of its kind in Antarctica. It is a full-service camp operating during the Antarctic summer (November through January). The logistics company also maintains and operates the ice runway, a separate skiway and an efficient logistics hub to provide support to private expeditions and National Antarctic Programs.
Much goes on behind the scenes to ensure the safety and comfort of visitors on the ice. Communications experts keep regular contact with the outside world. Heavy equipment mechanics maintain and operate a fleet of transport and runway maintenance equipment. A meteorologist provides weather information to flight crews. The general support staff do the thousand-and-one tasks that keep camp in tip-top shape.
Antarctic Ice Marathon competitors will stay in double-walled sleeping tents that are roomy and comfortable. They are well suited to Antarctic conditions and are based on a design used by Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. Each tent houses two guests and each will sleep in a polar sleeping bag provided as part of the race registration costs. The tents are naturally heated by the 24-hour sunlight and interior temperatures range from 25°F – 68°F (4°C - 20°C).
The dining tent is the heart of the camp. It has a full kitchen and dining area and serves as a gathering place for meals, activities and conversation. Competitors will enjoy hearty, fresh-cooked meals while self-serve snacks and beverages are available at any time. The logistics company also regularly fly in fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meats and a variety of beers and Chilean wines from Punta Arenas, Chile.
Union Glacier has a small clinic staffed by a doctor and medic. They are available to treat minor injuries and illness or in case of a medical emergency. A selection of medications and fundamental equipment for the care and stabilization of patients is also stocked.
Communications and Meteorology
Good communication and weather information are crucial for safe operations. Not surprising then that the Comms facility is the centre of “on ice” operations. Satellite phone, VHF and HF radio maintain regular contact with the logistics company's Punta Arenas office, field parties, aircraft and other bases. It is possible to make outgoing Iridium phone calls from Union Glacier and pre-paid phone cards may be purchased at the camp. The on-site meteorologist uses local observations, information from automatic weather stations and satellite imagery to provide wind and weather information to flight crews and expeditions.
Power and Charging
Systems are solar-powered to minimize environmental impact and there are limited solar/charging facilities to guests. Competitors will need a 12V DC-DC charger capable of plugging in to a “female” cigarette lighter socket to use the system.
Two specially adapted 4x4 passenger vans are used for excursions around Union Glacier and to shuttle guests to and from the runway. There is also a fleet of specialized vehicles for snow clearing, runway maintenance and ground transportation in Antarctica. These include an industrial snow-blower, several tractors, snowcat, skiway groomer and a number of snowmobiles and sleds. A team of mechanics operate and maintain these machines.