After years of planning plus a lot of money, sweat and time I arrived in Antarctica with aspirations to reach the South Pole. Having already been to every country on Earth, the South Pole had always been a target on my travel list-right at the top. The list of people who have been there is short and only a few dozen get there each year. But after a combination of several factors, my group was unable to reach the South Pole. Bad weather, bad luck and Prince Harry prevented me from reaching the South Pole.
First, I want to state for the record that I do not blame Prince Harry personally or his ‘Walking With the Wounded’ group. I think it’s a great cause and wish them the best. They did nothing to my group or me intentionally and every one of them including the Prince himself was very nice to my group and myself. Here is what happened.
The Ilyushin-76 was supposed to fly from Cape Town to Novolazarevskaya Station and the Novo blue ice Runway on November 19th at 10pm where we would start our 10-day Antarctic expedition. The flight was delayed for 24 hours, then 48 hours and then another 12 hours. So by the time we ended up leaving from Cape Town it was Friday November 22nd at 9am. The flight to Novo is 6 hours and we arrived around 3pm.
I had first heard that Prince Harry and the ‘Walking With the Wounded’ team would be on my flight about a week beforehand. I must admit I was pretty excited to see and meet the Prince. Why not?! It would make my dream trip to the South Pole even more memorable. You don’t meet royalty every day.
Sure enough I met Prince Harry on the tarmac outside the Ilyushin-76 in Cape Town. I went and said hi. He was very polite. We chatted for a second and shook hands. Then we boarded. Prince Harry sat in the only window seat on the whole cargo plane a few rows in front of me.
The plane was pretty unique and really awesome to be honest. I had never flown on a cargo plane like this before. The most shocking thing to me was that the toilets in the back were actually port o’ potties! People on the plane were joking that the Prince would have to go to the bathroom the same as everyone else in the filthy toilets. He did…twice!
We landed at Novo base and everyone got off the plane but Harry waited to leave last. His television crew gets set up outside the plane and waits for him to come down and make some statements on arrival. I must say it was pretty cool and very exciting to watch and be a part of it. Too bad it was beyond freezing!
So after all the Prince Harry hoopla, their group goes to their camp at Novo and we go to ours at the White Desert camp site a few kilometers from the base. By the time we arrived it was nearly 5pm and the weather was awful so there would clearly be no flying that day.
The next two days were almost equally as awful for weather if not worse so we would be relegated to hiking around camp. Finally, on Monday the weather started to get better and they were saying that planes would start flying to different destinations in Antarctica. We thought we would be flying to the South Pole. But that wasn’t the case.
There are only two planes at Novo Base that are suitable for flying. A twin otter; which doesn’t have the range to reach the South Pole or even the refueling station at 83 degrees (everything in Antarctica is done via degrees). There were two DC-3’s but one was involved in an accident and wasn’t fixed yet. So there was only one DC-3 that could fly people to the South Pole.
Prince Harry’s team was quite large. There were some 30 people or more. The capacity for the DC-3 is about 12 passengers. Therefore, his group would basically need to fly 3 times. That is what ended up happening on 3 consecutive days. So they utilized the plane until Thursday.
We were completely unaware of this pecking order or priority system and people started to get very angry in the group. We were supposed to leave Antarctica on that Thursday night and figured there was no way we would get there. We found out that the Ilyushin-76 had been delayed for 24 hours until Friday so we thought maybe there was a small chance that we would get use of the plane.
That didn’t happen. They refused to let us fly so close to departure because you must spend a night at the South Pole because it’s a 6-8 hour journey one-way and the pilots need to rest. Plus the weather is so unpredictable they didn’t want us to miss our flight back to Cape Town. So we got shut out for the South Pole.
Bad weather, bad luck and Prince Harry prevented me from reaching the South Pole. That said; I still had an absolutely amazing experience in Antarctica and my experiences, both amazing and frustrating, will last as lifetime memories. I made some amazing new friends on the trip and will be detailing my trip in the coming days and weeks on my site and you can already view some of the pictures on my Facebook page.
However, I am still extremely disappointed that we didn’t achieve our goal of making the South Pole. But I will be back in Antarctica to try again next year. I will not be denied twice! I just hope Prince William doesn’t decide to go to the South Pole next year!