Even in the modern era, Antarctica remains one of the most inhospitable, difficult-to-reach places in the world. Really only accessible from November to March, visitors to this Terra Incognita are typically of three flavors: scientists, tourists, and the military.
A small number of tourists and adventurers arrive aboard a modified IL-76 aircraft that departs Punta Arenas. This large Russian jet flies to the edge of the Ellsworth Mountain Range, onto a specially prepared blue-ice runway adjacent to Union Glacier camp. Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions choreographs this incredibly complex Antarctic ballet. The private outfitter has become one of the only ways for non-government sponsored personnel to gain entry to the interior of Antarctica.
I hopped on the IL-76 and arrived in Antarctica four hours later—my fourth trip to the continent but first time to its center. It was a stunning spring day in the Crystal Desert, but I knew better than to let my guard down. The beauty of Antarctica is only matched by her cold, unforgiving judgment.