May – Sun Visions

15 May, 2003

Rothera Diary – May 2003

Sun Visions

Sunsets in Antarctica are like no other that I have ever seen. This may be because the sunsets also happen to be part of the sunrises, or vice versa, depending upon how you see it. This is, of course, because the sun has been getting noticeably lower each day as we get closer to mid-winter. It really has been a fascinating month observing the changes. At the beginning of the month there was a clear distinction between sunrise and sunset, by the middle the two had merged into one and now, at the end of the month neither occurs, as the sun no longer rises above the horizon – that is, unless you chase the sun by climbing up one of the local peaks.

Getting up in the mornings in the dark is not so abnormal for a lot of us on base, particularly those of Scottish tendencies. However, to have smoko (coffee break) in view of the stars and moon, is a little on the strange side. All this does, however, is make you appreciate it when the light finally does arrive. The best days are the crisp ‘dingle’ days and it is almost predictable that you are going to be in for a spectacular light show and one of the most stunning sunrises you’ll ever experience. The only question then, whether to walk to the north or south of the base to make the most of the extravaganza.

To the north you can watch the sun’s rays flood through the distant peaks, across the pancake-ice covered north cove, with the occasional seal relaxing on the beach and snow petrels swooping low across the water. Southwards, either up to the cross or down to the wharf, you look out toward Jenny Island, across the flat calm open ocean glistening pink, disturbed only by icebergs that positively glow where they catch the light, and if your lucky you can spot the occasional whale (a pod of 40 were sighted the other day). Also looking south you get to watch the light change the peaks of Adelaide island from a dusky blue to a glimmering pink and then turning glistening white as the sunrays finally hit the tops of the mountains. The colour change gradually descends the sides of the snow-covered mountains and on to the glaciers, as the sun rises. Mmmmmm, decisions, decisions…

Well I guess if I decide to go south today, I can always go north tomorrow because although it will be different it will be just as spectacular! This was definitely in the holiday brochure.

Kirsty Brown – Marine Biologist