Perpetual Sunset of an Antarctic Autumn

The sun is now in a constant state of setting over the horizon during the day, which is a total of about an hour of sunlight at this point. This means it’s always in a state of peaking just below the skyline to blanket the sky in beautiful hues of orange, pink, purple, and any other color you can imagine in the sky. At night time, however, it’s either a magnificent view of twinkling stars coupled with a brilliantly shining moon or a bleak, pitch-black storm that blankets the night in darkness. We’re gaining what seems like 15 minutes of night time a day, which I’m ecstatic about. Along with the winter night becoming prominent, this winter is setting itself up to be a great improvement experience for me already.

One of the last big things I’ve set myself to accomplish while being down here is to see an Australis Borealis, the Southern Lights.  This can only happen if the sky is completely dark with very little light pollution from the sun. With an even better view outside of McMurdo where there’s no lights, my best chance is to stay up all night and search for one on my day off. Or I could just keep waiting until the sun is completely below the horizon with virtually no residual light earlier in the afternoon and stake myself out at hut point after I get off everyday until one snakes it’s way through the sky my way. Sounds right up my alley 🙂

My projects this winter are coming along nicely. On my down time I’m still trying to get in better shape. Slowly but surely I’ll reach that goal. I’m actually training for my first marathon. Granted it’s at the start of August, which is the dead of winter, and on a treadmill inside. A human being would probably not survive a 26+ mile marathon in that extreme of weather outside that time of year. Either way, it’ll be a great step forward. I’m also trying to keep up on my Ukulele learning. I’ve played a lot less than I’d prefer so I’ll work on that. Also, something else I need to work on is learning Spanish. I found someone that does Spanish-speaking lessons but it’s well after my bed time when she can do it since I usually have to be up by 4 AM to get a head start at cooking lunch. Other than that, I’m progressing everything I’ve focused on well enough with 8 weeks into winter.

The first official winter flight of the season has come and gone, carrying with it 45 more people back to civilization. The cargo plane, however, is another story. The New Zealand LC-130 was contracted to bring in supplies, mail, and cargo for further construction projects during the next 6 weeks. That was the plan until disaster struck in the Pacific Ocean in Vanuatu in the form of a massive storm. Unfortunately, the disaster in Vanuatu’s capital and surrounding islands following the category 5 cyclone, codenamed Cyclone Pam, have kept the New Zealand Air Force busy for the last month. Scheduling flights for any of the NZ planes to get down here for resupply and cargo were immediately dropped from the priority list. Understandably, any relief effort the New Zealander’s have mounted to help Vanuatu receive vital supplies to rebuild their small nation has taken precedence. Nearly 90% of the structures in all of Vanuatu were damaged, if not destroyed and the country is in disarray. Although it would’ve been nice for moral within the community to receive packages from home and fresh vegetables, it’s good the New Zealanders keep their priorities straight.

Here’s a link to the breaking news story a month ago about the devastation in Vanuatu and links to donate however much you can:
http://www.weather.com/news/news/cyclone-pam-vanuatu-relief-aid-help-donate

My plans after I leave the Ice are varied. I’ve been offered employment at the South Pole for the winter next year so that changes some of my plans. They tend to change every couple of weeks anyway but as of right now, I’ll spend 5 to 7 days in Christchurch to allow for any weather delays coming out of McMurdo. After that, I’ll fly into Bangkok to be an annoying tourist for a week to see the temples and rice fields. Then I’ll fly home to Salt Lake City to set up my medical evaluations in Denver. Last, but not least, I’ll fly to Peru to see the Colca Canyon, a fissure in the Andean Mountains twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and Machu Picchu. I’ll be spending some much needed time in the Wasatch Range in Utah and through Southern Utah’s national parks.  All of which precedes my return, and probably final, season to the Great White South.

The sun is poised to set one final time in 4 days. The winter will be taxing with no sunlight but I’ll make the best of it with the great people that are wintering over with me in McMurdo. A clear night sky will eventually be my only solace extending into winter, with a great view of our Milky Way Galaxy and the stars surrounding it. Please keep me in your thoughts as you go about your days in the perpetual sunny summer in the Northern Hemisphere or the inklings of sun in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. Remember, I love mail and I’ll definitely reciprocate with a post card, letter, or package following the winter flights that are scheduled here. I hope everyone that reads this is doing well!

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