Here comes the sun

photo by Christy Schultz

Okay, now for something a little less heavy.

Sun is just now coming up. I like this time of year, when I’m typically up just a little before the dawn, when the sky to the east is that impossible deep blue-black curtain, laced at the bottom with a spreading glow of pinkorangeyellowredwhite. It’s best when that last quarter moon is hanging there, too, falling behind an hour each day until it disappears into the sunrise and emerges, renewed, a fresh sliver at dusk. Yeah, I like sunrises.

Folks down at the Pole have sunrise on their mind, too. After six months of night, those crazy, wonderful, maddening, brave, unbelievably loveable folks are seeing the light. Well, they’ve been starting to see the light for a couple of weeks now, but a couple of days ago, clear skies and atmospheric refraction brought them their first glimpse of sun in just about six months. Official “sunrise” is today, and I expect there’s some serious ritual frolicking going on down there.

It’s also a weird, bittersweet time too, from what I can tell. The ordeal is nearly over – not that you could tell from the thermometer: they had another cold streak pushing the edge of -100F again just a couple of days ago. But the first Basler with freshies and replacements is due in less than a month, and the station will be filled with unfamiliar new faces that upset comfortable routines. I mean, I remember how unnerving it was for me coming back to civilization from Pole: the sea of strange people, talking at me – I didn’t know how to respond. And that was after only three months, with a nice comfy population of 240. The 49 (it is 49, right? Jens has been behaving?) souls wintering over have been isolated for almost 9 months. You’re going to get, as the language goes, a little toasty in that situation.

photo by Robert Schwartz

I’m still trying to get my vicarious fixes from the ice. There are the blogs, but they tended to go quiet in August. I can understand: it must seem like the world outside is so far away – exists only on a flickering screen for those hours when the satellites are up. You’ve already said everything that you can think of to tell them, what more is there? There are the Facebook and Google+ posts – Eric staking his well-earned bragging rights for soldiering off on his rounds as windchill dropped below -130, Christy and Robert’s breathtaking aurora pictures, shots of the fire barrels and streaks in the sky from the emergency airdrop, the crate of fresh oranges and bag of mail that some thoughtful soul included in the pallet (hey – if you’re going to send a C-17 on a 5000 mile round trip to drop off a couple of boxes of supplies, you might as well bring some nice things too).

A few folks have been keeping up the effort. It’s well worth shimmying on over to to have a look at the blogs. Marco’s pictorial on suiting up to go skiing at -85F is particularly memorable; I really do believe he went skiing every day over winter – he’s that kind of crazy). And Grace’s paean to “Why I’m here” captures things in a way that makes me desperately ice-sick (yes, that’s a word. At least it is now). Oh heck – take a break from your normal blogs and, on this morning of the first – and only – sunrise at the South Pole all year, head on over to to read up on what the Polies have been up to. It’s so much better than just checking Facebook again.

Marco, Ben, Kevin, Jens (back row), Christy and Grace (front row)
photo by Christy Schultz

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