The general idea is this - the sun doesn’t go down. Therefore, you have more time to do activities. During an Antarctic Summer, that rule of thumb couldn’t be more accurate. While I was on the ice in February, the sun did in fact not set. For me, this was a completely out of this world experience for many reasons. I realised how much my body and mind appreciated the gradual fall of darkness to know when it was time to rest. I found that by missing this critical biological indicator, my in-house chemistry was always just a little whack, off, past its expiry date if you like. It seemed I had a set level of energy no matter the time of the day… 7am, 1pm, midnight or 3am. It’s dangerous, it’s trickery at the most extreme of levels, yet completely natural.
The sun doesn’t set during Summer because you’re at the bottom of the world. For four months, the planet is tilted in full favour of the sun, 24/7. December and January are when the sun is at its highest, circling above in a blue sky endlessly. During my time in February, however, I considered myself lucky. I was in Antarctica during what you call late Summer. Slowly but surely each day the sun would get closer to the horizon. Closer to kissing the jagged mountains of the most mountainous area in the world. While I was in Antarctica it would not be my time to see the sunset. It has only just set recently as of late March.
I consider myself lucky, why? Well, late Summer meant I could experience the joy of low and horizontal light reflecting on one of the grandest landscapes in the world. Shades of purples, oranges and pinks that I will likely never see again… For every environment creates its own unique interaction between light, land and atmosphere. Antarctica’s cocktail of these elements is a very unique one indeed. I also consider myself lucky because these conditions also impact upon how much sea ice remains in McMurdo Sound. The combination of relatively warm weather and favourable winds had cleared the sound of ice to a point where we could walk around the base of Observation Hill (a couple k’s from Scott Base) where the coastline was exposed. This meant, as the title suggests, that the whales of the Ross Sea could now be seen by the naked eye. Much like the Sound itself, the opportunity to go whale spotting had opened.
These photographs take my breath away. The pastel colours, the Killer Whales fins and blasts of mist so far away in the distance...
When I look at these photographs, I see raw beauty. The colourful and changing (taking 30 minutes apart) midnight sun shining on the Sea Ice shelf, penguins sunbathing in the short-lived low light and a Minke whale taking a breath before the next dive. I see animals which rely on the same planet as I do to survive. This is the kind of beauty that will inspire me till the day I die.
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