Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bye Bye Sun

we sit in the cold and wait as the darkness descends, so slowly it is very hard to describe.

Each day you can see the change in the light, and I strain to see the first stars, but the change is a weekly, not hourly, thing, and it can be almost frustrating. The shadow of the earth creeps up the sky, a deep, lovely blue that I haven't seen in many months, while on the other horizon, the last pastel lights of the now-gone sun shade the clouds. This dance spins around us constantly, but soon gone will be the days when you tell the time by where the sun is in the sky (the easiest sundial in the world). For about five hours on Thursday evening, the top edge of the sun split into many layers and we watched the green flash - though for us it wasn't a flash (called that as it usually lasts a matter of seconds) but a shimmering, translucent layer of irridescent green that lasted, off and on, for several hours. Simply stunning. And then he was gone!

I am looking forward to the dark, but others - especially newcomers to this polar world - are getting edgy and nervous. I have heard that the dark changes the moods of many on station, so it shall be interesting to see. Me, little nocturnal bee, I miss my friends, the stars, and look forward to greeting them again. The moon is up, rising almost exactly as the sun set. As if in gracious acknowledgement of his leaving, she rose, gorgeous, gibbously full, casting a silvery light which looks lovely in the last blues and roses of the sunset. Though she wanes now, she is with us still, rising for two weeks at a time before setting and disappearing for the next two weeks, then to rise again. As a result of our peculiar spot on the globe, and as the sun is on the other side of the world in our winter, when the moon is up here, we only ever see her full to half full. No crescent or new moons for the entire winter. (If you are confused, draw a picture of the sun, moon and earth, and it'll be a bit clearer). Enough poetic blather.

Work has been going well, I am plodding away at various tasks that were put off in the mania of earlier months, and it is nice to get to these at last. ACBAR is behaving himself and we are now getting on famously, which is nice. It is getting cold, sitting mostly around the -55C mark, though with a clear sky, as today, it drops to -60 or so. These days are fine, but the blowing ones are harder. We had a bit of a storm on the weekend, dumping big drifts of snow in our path. Riding the snowmobile on Sunday was much like being on a jetski across the Sydney heads, bumpadabumpadabump...I saw airtime more than once. WEEEEEEE!

The storms blow in the snow, and then, another day or two of winds, and these soft drifts are carved into hard, sharp sastrugi, swirling into breaking waves and lovely shapes. Lovely as they look, they are a menace and a hazard,especially as it darkens. Most grooves are conveniently shaped to slot in a foot, and are ripper ankle-twisters. So Allan has pointed out to me it is not so useful to walk around them and coo about how pretty they are. Instead, a good backswing and a solid dropkick and 'plonk!', kick the lovely formations to pieces. The sound is very peculiar - the snow sticks like castor sugar and sounds crunchy to walk on. But hitting these rocky formations and, well, imagine kicking a big, sturdy styrafoam esky around the room and it starts to describe it. Then comes a crystaline tinkling as the broken pieces skid across the frozen snow, almost sounding like glass. Very satisfying noises, let me tell you. So I have placed poetry and aesthetic sense aside for safety and sensibility, and am now a gleeful Sastrugi Destroyer.

In other news we had our Sunset Party on Saturday evening. In the afternoon I helped (actually, mainly watched) Allan, Robert and Steffen (the last two are our resident Germans on station) put together a schnitzel and strudel feast for the station. Many people pitched in and it turned out a rather gormet affair. In truth, the wine was flowing and many were very merry by the meal and were mostly taken by the balloons decorating the tables. (See a few pics on the 'silly' pagefor a better explanation). Many strage headpieces were donned, and the night descended into silliness and dancing. Which is never a bad thing, in my opinion:)

I will write more anon! Love to hear from you,
hope you are enjoying the updates on the page.
big smiles

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