The Wind, the Sun

At 5:06 this morning, I realized that the jet that had been idling outside Hotel California all night wasn’t going to be leaving. Because, of course, there was no jet. The wind had been coming up around Ob Hill, across the helipad, and rolling through the line of buildings at the (grid) west end of town since yesterday afternoon. It sang on the steel railings – each building with its own ethereal harmonic chord ringing out. It whistled menacingly through the open spaces. And against the slab blocks of Ho-Cal and MMI, it rumbled like a jet engine.

I knew it was 5:06 because I propped myself up and looked at my watch. Wasn’t one of those sleepless oh-god-what-time-is-it-now nights; I’d actually slept pretty well. But you just can’t tell what time it is here without seeing the direction of the sun. The notion of “dawn” speaks to seasons here, not times of day. After a week or two year, you apparently do get a sense of time from the position of the sun, but it’s by horizontal reference, not height. It “rises” over Hut Point and “sets” over Ob Hill, but it doesn’t ever actually rise or set. It just spins across the horizon counterclockwise. 2500 years ago, Herodotus thought the Phoenicians were nuts – or lying – when they claimed that they’d circumnavigated Africa. They told such bizarre stories, for example, of the sun coming up the wrong way. Heh. Who was it who said that not only is the universe stranger than we believe, it’s stranger than we can believe?

Dragged myself out of bed around 0600 to check the flight schedule. As I was going to bed last night, they posted our flight (P002) as flying out at 1030, following Pole 1’s 0800 departure. Not that anybody believed it would happen, but missing my Pole flight would not endear me to anyone on the continent.

[Speaking of sun and time and geography, it’s worth spending a few minutes contemplating the sundial between Crary and 155. Note the (lack of) correspondence between “true”, “magnetic” and “grid” north. I find it beautifully symbolic of how all our “default world” assumptions need to be thrown out down here.]

2 responses to “The Wind, the Sun

  1. Hey Pablo, just wanted to drop a line and say I'm enjoying your posts and photos! I'm not a lifelong pole fan like you, but remote, extreme places…oh yes. Good luck getting to the pole soon!

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  2. If you haven't left yet, any chance you could post a photo of those wind turbines? I was away for the weekend (nowhere exotic!) and just got back to computers/your posts, which I am following with much vicarious enjoyment … and sometimes sympathy … — Lori

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