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Whistler Air treks to the South Pole



It was a call Mike Quinn of Whistler Air had prepared for but never expected.

Last October, several months after preliminary discussions with Adventure Network International, he got a call asking him to rev up his engines and get his single engine turbine Otter to the Antarctic as fast as possible.

"One of the aircraft they had chartered to go down there had been damaged in a windstorm shortly after it arrived," said Quinn.

"So we were called to fill in right away, at the last minute. We mobilized and got down there and spent the winter flying tourists to the South Pole so it was quite an experience."

Quinn had approached Adventure Network International several months earlier about using one his planes during the company’s winter slow season.

"I never thought anything would come of it," said Quinn with a chuckle.

But by the beginning of last November the plane, Quinn and another pilot, Trevor Syrowy, were on their way to do their own trek to the South Pole.

It took about 28 days to fly from Whistler to their base camp at Patriot Hills in the Antarctic.

"The flight down was an experience," said Quinn.

"Going across the Drake Passage was a challenge and flying down the Antarctic Peninsula and into the interior was quite amazing.

"We flew through the (United States) to Texas then through Mexico, Belize, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and right down to the foot of Chile. Then there was the jump across the Drake Passage to Antarctica and then down the Antarctic Peninsula and to the interior.

"The base camp was located at Patriot Hills about 600 nautical miles from the South Pole.

"It was about 14 flying days but it actually took us about 28 days because of the delays from the weather and the permits."

Once there Quinn and Syrowy spent several days setting up a cache of fuel about half way to the pole as the plane would have to re-fuel for the return trip.

It took about 12 hours to fly there and back. The whole trip took about 18 hours.

Dealing with the extreme winter conditions was nothing new to the pilots but every trip required rigorous safety checks for both the plane and the passengers and crew.

Although the Otter can usually carry 12 when flying in and around Whistler, in the Antarctic it carried only eight to make room for all the equipment which had to accompany every flight.

Everything they needed for the long journey had to be carried in and taken back to preserve the delicate environment of the Antarctic.

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