A transport plane bound for Antarctica on a maintenance mission at a Chilean base went missing on Monday evening, the Chilean Air Force said.
The plane, a C-130 Hercules, was carrying 38 people, including 17 crew members and 21 passengers, the air force statement said.
They were flying to Base Antarctica Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, a key Chilean outpost on King George Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
President Sebastian Piñera of Chile said in a statement that he was filled with anxiety over the plane’s disappearance. The president said a search and rescue mission had begun.
The plane was transporting crew members to inspect a floating pipeline that helps keep the base powered, the air force said.
The plane left the Chabunco Air Base in Punta Arenas, near Chile’s southern tip, at 4:55 p.m. and lost radio contact at 6:13 p.m.
Gen. Eduardo Mosqueira, an air force commander, told reporters that the plane might have attempted to land somewhere.
Chilean military aircraft were dispatched to search for the missing plane. The plane would have been about 450 miles into a journey of about 770 miles when contact was lost, according to an air force statement. If it was flying on its intended course, that would put it in the middle of the Drake Passage.
The Drake Passage connects the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans between the southern tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. It has some of the world’s worst weather, and is known for its frigid temperatures and powerful storms.
Chile has four permanent bases in Antarctica that support scientific research on issues including biodiversity and climate change.
Barbara Marcolini and Ernesto Londoño contributed reporting.