Okay, yes. It has been a while since I last posted… and a lot has happened! The last time I wrote we were having our sunset dinner. Well since then the sun has set! What a dramatic event! We were very lucky – the weather gods smiled upon us and granted us clear weather to view the sinking of the sun below the horizon. I love all sunsets, but this one was particularly spectacular a) because I haven’t seen a sunset since January, b) because it takes several days for the sun to actually leave, and c) we saw the Green Flash!
The Green Flash is a brief ‘flash’ of green or blue light seen on the top of the setting sun. Its rare to see – you need a clear view of the horizon. It is often seen from aircraft, high altitudes like mountains, and at sea. The green flash occurs because of the refraction of light through the Earth’s atmosphere. Light is curved going through the different densities of the atmosphere. Green and blue light curves (refracts) more than the reds and oranges – you end up seeing these colors being bent as the other colors have already sunk below the horizon with the sun. (That’s a very basic explanation – there are better explanations available on the interwebs) Because the sun sinks so slowly here, the Green Flash persisted for HOURS, not seconds. It was fantastic. I literally took hundreds of pictures when the sun was ‘flashing’ and I actually got a few decent shots. So lucky!!!
Each day is getting darker now. Although the sun is gone (it actually popped up above the horizon a few times after it set), it is still fairly light outside. We are now in civil twilight. In a few weeks we’ll leave official period of twilight and just be in plain old night. That is very exciting. We are starting to see stars and planets – Venus is very bright, as are Serius and
. That’s about the extent of my astronomical knowledge. One of our awesome scientists is teaching an astronomy class, so he points out the stars to us. I’m slowly picking it up. Very soon we should start seeing the auroras! That is what I am really excited for! I’ve seen the auroras twice in Canopus and they were so faint that they looked the looms from a large town or city. I knew it had to be the auroras because we were sailing in the middle of NOWHERE. No towns for hundreds of miles. Bring it on! Alaska
Things are starting to settle into their winter schedules. Many departments have been working extremely hard getting things winterized and finished outside before it gets too dark and cold outside to stay out for extended periods of time. There’s been a lot of trash and refuse moved and contained, lots of inventorying outside, and getting vehicles ready. Here at ARO we have started bringing in our solar instruments. We brought in four right after sunset, and next week we will bring in the rest that get to hibernate inside. A few instruments just get to hang out in the darkness and chill until the sun rises again. Its also gotten colder. We’re averaging in the -70F range. Yesterday the temperature dipped around lunch time – we hit -87F. Later in the evening it hit -90, which is the coldest we have seen so far. So close to the 300 Club! I still haven’t brought out the Big Red jacket (except for an emergency drill outside and walk to the Dark Sector, which is farther than I usually walk – I was dying of heat on both occasions I wore the jacket). Hardcore!!!!!
We’ve had a few events on station. One was Bingo night – if you came dressed as a pop culture icon, you could play with 4 boards instead of 3. Well, I wasn’t too into getting dressed up as anything until I thought of the perfect costume – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Oh yeah. So I was making my costume in the arts and crafts room, happily cutting away at some scrap felt I found, when I had another turtle join in my idea. I ended up making two costumes, while my turtle friend made our weapons. We were so awesome! We both had green shirts and sewed some ‘turtle abs’ I constructed out of felt and markers, bandanas which had eye holes, arm and knee pads in the appropriate colors, and weapons our characters always used. When we were done, we spent some time sneaking around the station like ninja turtles trying to test out our outfits. Unfortunately it was a quiet night and there weren’t many people around. We managed to sneak up on three people, giving them all a start. The costumes were a hit at Bingo – we had our arch-nemesis, Jean Claude Van Damme to battle. Also in attendance were Dolly Parton, the Swedish Chef, Luigi, Gigi the Giraffe, and Sherlock and Watson. Fantastic! Bingo aside, we had fun in our costumes.
We also had a night where we played Paper Telephone – it’s a South Pole Summer classic game where instead of whispering phrases around a circle, you draw them. Every player gets the same number of pieces of paper as there are players. On your first sheet of paper you write down a common phrase – one of the better ones from the night was ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’ From there, you put the paper at the back of the pile and pass it on to the next person. That person looks at what you wrote and then has to draw it. The next person it is passed to only looks at the drawing and writes what they think the phrase was. Depending on how many people you have and what their drawing abilities are, the results can be hilarious! By the time all the piles of paper reach their original owners, the drawings are ridiculous and the phrases are completely wrong or make no sense. It was another fantastic night at the South Pole.
Other than that, things have been pretty quiet. There are more events on the horizon which will spice things up, but I’ll cross those bridges when I come upon them!
Stay warm back home… or cool? Spring is here!