In 1985, there was no practical way for a private traveler to reach Antarctica except by ship. The challenges of flying into the Antarctic were formidable. Distances from nearby continents were great, weather problems daunting, and fuel unavailable for private individuals.
Despite all the odds, in 1985, two Canadian mountaineers – Pat Morrow and Martyn Williams – joined with seasoned Antarctic pilot Giles Kershaw from Britain to plan and organize an ascent of Mount Vinson for a group intent on being the first to scale the “Seven Summits”, the highest peak on all seven continents. Having conquered the summit, the trio realized that the strategy they had developed to reach their goal could be used to assist others and Adventure Network International, the predecessor to ALE, was born.
More than 30 years later, ALE is the most experienced and capable private operator in the interior of Antarctica. We have carried thousands of passengers, using large aircraft operating out of Punta Arenas, Chile, to ice runways at Patriot Hills and Union Glacier. We have supported virtually every expedition that has crossed the continent on foot, by vehicle or by aircraft. We have supported major science projects and overland traverses. We continue to improve our services and logistic capability. We offer a range of Experiences that showcase the best of the icy continent and cater to every type of adventurer. And we continue our mission to set the highest possible environmental standards and to use best practices.
1985-1990: The Early Years
We opened up the heart of Antarctica to expeditions and established the first inland, blue-ice airfield in Antarctica. The idea of using blue-ice areas to land conventional aircraft had been around since the early 60’s, but was unproved until we landed a DC-4 at Patriot Hills in 1987. This ground-breaking achievement changed the face of Antarctic aviation and allowed us to fly direct from Chile to Antarctica, without the need for re-fueling stops along the way.
- Created a support and transportation system for mountaineers wishing to scale Mount Vinson
- Surveyed a blue-ice runway to establish an air-link from Chile to the Ellsworth Mountains, West Antarctica
- 1st wheeled landing of a DC4 aircraft on Patriot Hills blue-ice runway, Antarctica
- 1st tourist flight to the Geographic South Pole
- 1st guided ski experience from the Antarctic coast to the Geographic South Pole. A distance of 600 nm (1000 km)
- 1st wheeled landing of a DC6 aircraft on Patriot Hills blue-ice runway
- Supported the 1st-ever crossing of the continent on foot (International Transantarctica Expedition)
1991-2003: More Pioneering Achievements
We came of age in the 1990s. Early exploration led to a well structured company, determined to have a light touch on the Antarctic environment. We expanded our range of guided experiences and services and continued to explore new blue-ice airfields and suitable aircraft for our operations.
- 1st private flight to the majestic emperor penguin colony at Dawson-Lambton Glacier
- Founding member of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators)
- 1st private company to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment on our Antarctic operations
- 1st wheeled landing of a Hercules aircraft on Patriot Hills blue-ice runway
- 1st private climbing expedition to the Transantarctic Mountains
- Surveyed a blue-ice runway in Dronning Maud Land, Eastern Antarctica, establishing an air-link between South Africa and Antarctica
- Support for National Geographic Magazine and the North Face climbing team in Dronning Maud Land
- Logistic support for the longest ever manhaul expedition across Antarctica (Dixie Dansercoer and Alain Hubert)
- Conducted a reconnaissance flight for blue-ice runways in East Antarctica
- Ilyushin 76 aircraft provides more passenger and cargo space and a shorter flight time between Chile and Antarctica
- Support for the longest crossing of the Antarctic Continent by two women (Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen)
2003-2010: Expanding Our Capabilities
A transition of ownership while expanding logistic capabilities to better support expeditions and scientific research and building a more comfortable base camp for our guests.
- Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions LLC established in 2003 and purchased Adventure Network International later that year
- Investment in tractors, snow clearing, cargo handling and other heavy equipment
- Began flight and logistic support for National Antarctic Programs
- Operated first overland tractor-train expedition to investigate sub-glacial lakes around the Ellsworth Mountains
- Installed automatic weather stations at the Ellsworth Mountains, the 1st in this sector reporting to the World Meteorological Organization
- Started four year project to establish new blue-ice runway at Union Glacier
2010 and Beyond: A New Standard of Service
The next step was to find a more efficient way to fly passengers and cargo deep into Antarctica. The search for a better runway to support intercontinental flights was on.
- We moved our main camp & blue-ice runway to Union Glacier after 20 seasons of operation at Patriot Hills. This new into-wind runway provides a more predictable flight schedule
- Improved facilities with more comfortable guest tents, heated multi-purpose tents for dinings and lectures, and a greater range of outdoor activities
- 1st guided ascent of Mount Sidley, Antarctica’s highest volcano
- 2011 ALE celebrated the centenary of Roald Amundsen’s and Robert Falcon Scott’s arrival at the South Pole. Guests overnight at our new South Pole Camp
- Overland traverse to deploy the Brazlian Antarctic Program’s Criosfera 1 module
- Ongoing support for major science projects, including Subglacial Lake Ellsworth Project and PoleNet
- ALE guided teams establish new routes and 1st ascents in the Heritage Range