Tag Archives: Solstice
It is winter now. Temperatures have fallen to a low of -70F and the polar night has enveloped us with darkness nearly 24/7. We still get a few hours of twilight each day between 11am and 1pm. It’s just bright enough to wash out the stars, but soon it grows dark again.
sDecember 21st is the winter solstice and the darkest day. We will have almost 14hrs of proper night, 3hrs of Astronomical twilight, and just under 7hrs of Nautical twilight. After this darkest day it will gradually become lighter each day until January 28th, 2017 when we will see the sun again.
We’ve found our grooves and have settled into our winter routines. It feels a bit like ground-hog day sometimes, with each day much like the last despite our efforts to mix things up. Some of the bigger winter projects are underway and I have stayed busy updating SOPs, safety paperwork, and cleaning out and re-organizing the filing cabinets on station. Some other projects we have include paint touch-ups, major generator PMs, re-flooring the walk-in refrigerator, and other bits and pieces. After-hours we watch movies or read, but I think everyone is sleeping more. It is a much smaller crew here than we had during my winter at the South Pole (5 vs 44) and we only have a few weeks of darkness compared to the months down South (antarcticarctic.wordpress.com/heart-of-darkness), but it is challenging none-the-less.
We still have a few “freshies” left; some apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, a few leeks, some squash, and cabbage. They are a huge morale boost and are a greatly appreciated addition to frozen/dried food.
With the growing darkness I’ve had ample time to experiment with night photography. We’ve had several beautiful displays of aurora borealis and a few clear days/nights to get some star trails.
The sky is a crisp blue, the snow a brilliant white. The drifting is impressive; some buildings are still buried to the roof. The air is thin. It’s barely cold and all is well.
We assembled in Schenectady, New York. Early the next morning, the sky still dark, a bus picks us up in front of the hotel. Bags are thrown in the back of a pick-up and we ride to the Air National Guard base where the C-130 hercs await.
Loaded into the planes, earplugs in, big coats tucked under arms, we settle into the cargo net seats. A quick stop in Goose Bay Canada to refuel; the view from the tarmac is bleak…hinting a sense of the arctic with spindly trees and a briskness to the air. We wait in the small passenger area and admire the full wall world map. The spot marking Goose Bay is rubbed blank. Then it’s onward to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
Kanger. Wide bare hills without anything for scale stretch along the silty fjord. The glacier is farther inland – just in view from the top of the hills. We have an extra day and I rode one of the bikes up Black Hill, overlooking town and the fjord. There are satellite dishes and radio antennas, but beyond those is the wide-open rolling land, ground down by the ebb and flow of the glaciers. A muskox picks its way through the tundra, stopping to graze. I sit in the lee of a boulder and soak it in – my last view of this alive world.
The first week was spent turning over with the Phase I crew. They’ve been here since February and were keen to go home. Summit is in the full swing of summer. Herc flights, Twin Otters, a remote camp, long-term research projects and short-term campaigns. There’s a lot to take in, but there are a lot of familiar faces – people I’ve worked with in West Antarctica, at the South Pole, or here at Summit in previous years. It’s good to be back and should be an interesting season!
Today is June 21 – the Solstice: the longest day of the year, Mid-winter for those in the Antarctic, mid-summer for those of us here. At 72° North we’re above the Arctic circle, the sun spiraling around above the horizon 24 hours a day now, but unlike the South Pole where they only have one sunrise and one sunset a year, here the sun moves gradually through the sky. The last sunset was on May 5, 2015. The next sunset will be on August 7, 2015! Check this page out for more solar/lunar data. (http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/greenland/summit-camp)