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Published: December 30th 2011
last sunset gathering
on the last day of sunlight for nearly 5 months, this past April (2011) many of us gathered up on castle rock a few miles from Mcmurdo to see the last sunset till August 21st. winter has started!
(apologies as this was actually posted Dec 28.11--I had not updated so now getting back on track!)
My third winter on the Ice, we had a station population of 151, later 149 due to emergency medical evac of personel (they are now fine!) Lots and Lots of snow, oddly enough not that frequent in Antarctica; and some good *& kicking polar storms. But also much warmer than normal winters-this makes for rough weather. Sadly 3 Norweigian sailors were lost nearby in our first storm of winter, the crew of the Berzerk 2.
Winter on the Ice is alot of solitude, reflection and close alliances with your fellow winter -overs. We work very hard, long hours but enjoy our free time, as we are alone for 6 months. yep, internet and tv we have, but the nearest city is 2200 miles away. the darkeness and cold are a source of both amazement and sadness. For me walking under the unfamiliar stars at noon is incredible, remember - we're looking directly 'under' the earth. We may have auroras and even more spectacular necreus clouds. And walking to work in 75 MPH winds(while sheltering your mug of coffee!) has its
hoping to get the last sunset, my camera freezes up! sitting in the snow talking to it seemed to help!
way of spicing up the work day. The winter isolation brings out the creativity and crazyness in so many people, you learn what an imagination can do at work and play. Even though you go into a sort of hibernation from time to time (remnant from when we had tails I guess, the 'thousand yard stare' when people get together it all goes away. The setting of the sun and its rise 5 months later are the pivotal events in your polar life, interupted only by the Midwinters Day celebrations, a sort of Christmas and new Years in one. A big feast, party and a jump through the ice into the sea! We reflected this year on those men who exactly 100 years ago spent a long bitter winter very very close to where Mcmurdo was built, in digs far far less comfortable than ours. they were preparing to be the first explorers to see the South Pole. they made it-but were not the first, beaten by 3 weeks. They died on the return journey, 110 miles from 'home' , the members of Capt Scotts Antarctic Expedition.
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