Twice now I’ve driven a 12-passenger van between McMurdo and Scott Base for American Night at Scott Base. I like the earlier shift more because you get to join the 12 people at Scott Base for dinner, which includes REAL ice cream (Frosty Boy… who knows what’s in the Frosty Boy ice cream machine we have in the galley). But I had the later shift last night, and just before leaving to start my shift, I got an aurora alert page from the Firehouse.
With some help adjusting my camera settings from my friend Liz, I finally got some decent aurora pictures. I only saw one green aurora with the naked eye, all the others were the shimmering white sheets that gently undulate across the sky, similar to what I saw in Talkeetna, Alaska two years ago.
At one point we stopped the van on the way to Scott Base and got out to look at one giant white aurora arching across the sky. It was at least -20 outside and my hands hurt from the cold within seconds, but the aurora made it worth it. I’d never seen anything like it.
The Aurora Australis (southern lights) looks identical to its far more famous northern hemisphere counterpart, but it felt extra special to see it because so few people see the southern lights. There are many companies in Alaska, northern Canada, and northern Scandinavia that cater to tourists on the hunt for the northern lights, but very few that help people look for the lights in the southern hemisphere. I’ve heard of cruises you can take from Tasmania and New Zealand that will take you south enough to see the lights, and very strong geomagnetic storms can generate auroras that can be seen around Melbourne, but usually, the only creatures that see the Aurora Australis are penguins.