Light Cracks the Sky


The first sunrise isn’t until August 19th, but folks at McMurdo are starting to get a taste of the sunrise for a few hours every afternoon. The horizon beyond Hut Point is lit up with cold, red, and purple, the Transantarctic Mountains can be faintly seen in the distance, and the land is bathed in a deep blue light just a shade lighter than the 24-hour Polar Night we’ve had since May.

Three friends and I went on a seven-mile round trip hike the other day. It was cloudy and we couldn’t see many stars, but we were treated to some beautiful pre-sunrise light on the horizon for a few hours.

In other news, the midwinter flight, which was delayed three weeks, finally arrived and departed, bringing us much longed-for mail and fresh vegetables.

I ate a salad for the first time in three months. It was awesome.

Science and Art Under the Sea

I wrote a longer article for The Antarctic Sun, which was six months in the making from proposal to submission. My colleague Mike let me know the NSF published it today.

Check it out!

Also, more pictures!

Life Inside an Astronomy Documentary

antarctic sky
My camera settings were wrong and the photo came out blurry, so I ran the photo through a Gimp enhancement setting just for giggles.

Seeing my photographer friends take stunning, National Geographic-like photos of the Milky Way and the auroras is reminding me how little I know about photography. Clarification: I knew nothing about photography when I came here, and now I know a tiny bit about photography.

Still, I have a lot to learn. We went out to the road to the Phoenix runway last night for stargazing and photography. We had the clearest, densest, most stupendous Milky Way I have ever seen in my life. The faint scattering of stars that passes for the Milky Way back in rural parts of the States pales in comparison to how the Milky Way looks down here.

I don’t think I will ever see a more stunning night sky. I look at the vast, cloudy streak of the Milky Way, the shooting stars, and the red and green aurora on the horizon and feel like I’m inside a Nova episode on PBS. Or like Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to walk up to me at any second and start pointing out the planets and star clusters.

It’s almost beautiful enough to bring me back for a second winter in a row. But not quite. Maybe after a year off 🙂


More Midwinter Madness and Monotony

With July right around the corner and my winter contract ending in eight weeks (!!!), I’m beginning to feel slightly frantic about getting to my uncompleted/unstarted winter projects and activities, like playing the drums more, volunteering with the fuels department, and maybe practicing my new barista skills.

I also have to do some grown-up things, like documentation, preparing work for Dave, the man who will cover for me when I’m off the ice for 6-8 weeks this fall, and figuring out how to get health insurance before I arrive back in the States.

I currently have more affordable health care in Antarctica than in the United States. Maybe I should just stay here.

I’m looking forward to leaving in late August mainly because I’m starting to feel a bit stifled here. I like my job, I like my friends and co-workers, and I like having free food, shelter, and medical care, but eight months on the Ice is wearing on me. I’m beginning to pine for the activities I had originally planned on doing this spring and summer, like visiting Australia, going on long-distance bike adventures, and getting tower climber training and certification, amongst other professional development activities. I’m also pining for actual pines. And oaks. And maples. And wildflowers. And salads. And not being so pasty white that my veins show through my skin in places they’ve never been visible before.

I like living here and I’m glad I’m coming back for another four months in late October, but I’m also feeling myself pulled in new directions.

I’d like to get enough IT training that I can apply for well-paying IT and comms jobs at Pole and Palmer Station and actually get one of those jobs in the next five years.

I’d like to get some kind of training in renewable energy technology in the next year or two.

I’d like to go to Australia, Asia, and South America in the next year, and meet my “30 by 30” goal of visiting 30 countries by the time I’m 30. I’m 26.5 years old and have been to 18 countries, so it’s totally doable. Especially if I take the next few austral winters off to actually do all the aforementioned things.










I’m sure folks in the arctic have their own version of Midwinter, but as far as I’m concerned, austral Midwinter is the one truly Antarctic holiday.

Midwinter broke the monotony I’ve been feeling for the last few months.

It reminded me how lucky I am to be here.

It reminded me that I am one of just a few thousand humans in all of human history who have lived in Antarctica in winter.

It made me feel a kinship with folks from Argentina, Chile, France, the U.K, Norway, Russia, South Korea, India, Japan, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand who are wintering at their countries’ research stations and also celebrating Midwinter.

It made me feel grateful for the friends and co-workers who make living and working here tolerable, if not downright hilarious and wonderful.

It made me joyous because I got to attend Midwinter dinner at Scott Base as well as McMurdo. And there were faint but visible auroras over the ice shelf as we were driving over.

It made me grateful that I have a consistent core of friends this season and am experiencing the Antarctic community life that I kind of missed out on last summer (since I’m no longer a newbie with a weird work schedule).

It made me really freakin’ glad I decided to spend a winter here. Even though it wasn’t my original plan. Even though the decision terrified me at first. Even though I felt underprepared. Even though it’ll probably be at least a year or two before I have the energy to do another winter.

But you never know. As our National Science Foundation Station Manager said at Midwinter dinner, “In Antarctica, never say never!”