Our main Antarctic camp is located in the southern Ellsworth Mountains, on the broad expanse of Union Glacier. The setting is spectacular. The accommodation spacious and comfortable. The meals fresh and delicious. The service and support unparalleled. Majestic peaks rise in all directions offering plenty of opportunities for scenic excursions, technical climbs and ski tours. At camp there is little wind, providing a comfortable environment to relax and take it all in.
We are 1,870 miles (3010 km) from the southern tip of Chile and a stone’s throw from Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. Our nearest neighbours are at the South Pole, just over 600 miles (1000km) away. Our geographic location is 79°46'S 82°52'W. And our elevation 2, 297ft (700m) above sea level.
Only Accessible by Air
Union Glacier Camp is only accessible by air and your journey begins with a 4 ¼ hour flight from Punta Arenas, Chile. Our wheeled aircraft lands on a naturally-occurring ice runway on the Union Glacier, where you take your first steps in Antarctica. Climb aboard one of our specially adapted vans for the 5 mile (8km) ride to camp, where a warm welcome awaits you.
The Only Facility of its Kind
Union Glacier is the only facility of its kind in Antarctica. Our full-service camp operates during the Antarctic summer (November through January). We also maintain and operate 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 your safety and comfort 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. Our meteorologist provides weather information to flight crews. Experienced pilots fly you to onward destinations. And general support staff do the thousand-and-one tasks that keep camp in tip-top shape. Meet Our Team.
Our double-walled sleeping tents 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. You sleep in your polar sleeping bag with a double mattress, pillow and linen provided by ANI. 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 our camp. It has a full kitchen and dining area and serves as a gathering place for meals, activities and conversation. You will enjoy hearty, fresh-cooked meals, baked goods and tantalizing desserts prepared by our chefs. Self-serve snacks and beverages are available anytime. We regularly fly in fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meats and a variety of beers and Chilean wines from Punta Arenas, Chile. Wine and beer are served with dinner.
At each turn a new experience awaits. Take in wide open vistas from the top of Charles Peak. Explore ice pools in the Elephant Head Valley. Ramble along multi-colored Spectrum Ridge. Cross country ski over frozen fields of sastrugi. Photograph wind sculpted clouds, unusual snow features and a thousand shades of white. Navigate using GPS. Carve snow sculptures. Or simply relax and take it all in. For the more adventurous, try ice climbing on the massive windscoop surrounding Charles Peak, scramble up the serpentine Ridge of Mount Rossman or camp out on the polar plateau.
Poor weather days provide opportunities for talks and skills sessions on diverse Antarctic themes. You can escape with a puzzle, game or DVD in our heated multipurpose tent. Sketch or paint. Meet other explorers and adventurers from around the world. Or relax with a book from our library. Whatever you choose to do, take time to experience the immense space and solitude that is Antarctica.
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. We stock a selection of medications and fundamental equipment for the care and stabilization of patients. More about safety and medical support
Communications and Meteorology
Good communication and weather information are crucial for safe operations. Not surprising then that our Comms facility is the center of our “on ice” operations. We use satellite phone, VHF and HF radio to maintain regular contact with our Punta Arenas office, field parties, aircraft and other bases. You can make outgoing Iridium phone calls from Union Glacier and Vinson Base Camps. Pre-paid phone cards may be purchased at Union Glacier or Vinson Base Camps. Our meteorologist uses local observations, information from our automatic weather stations and satellite imagery to provide wind and weather information to flight crews, climbers and expeditions.
Power and Charging
Our systems are solar-powered to minimize our environmental impact. We are able to offer limited solar/charging facilities to our guests. You will need a 12V DC-DC charger capable of plugging in to a “female” cigarette lighter socket, or a 110V charger with North American plug, to use the system.
Specially adapted 4x4 passenger vans are used for excursions around Union Glacier and to shuttle guests to and from the runway. We also own 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.
Two twin-engine, ski aircraft transport passengers, cargo and fuel beyond Union Glacier Camp. Our ski aircraft park to one side of camp and use a separate skiway.