Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Antarctica and the Sun that Refuses to Set

Frigid....brutal...unforgiving. These are words often used to describe the harshest continent on earth. Not my words though. This is the Antarctic summer! We've got penguins playing beach volleyball, hippies playing frisbee golf, and homosexuals on rollerblades showing off how much fitter they are than you. But before your antarctic summer imaginings stray too far, you'll need to temper your expectations a bit. When I first stepped foot off that plane out onto the ice I braced for the absolute worst. I was also expecting penguin butlers but apparently the US government "forgot" to hire any this year. Stupid budget cuts. I was however pleasantly surprised at how moderate it actually was down here. Again this is the Antarctic summer and this was not the South Pole. In fact, there were days in November where it was actually colder in Minnesota than it was here in Antarctica. Just one more thing to think about as you draw ever closer into that dark, cold winter my Minnesota friends and family: it is literally warmer in Antarctica.

The other element of the Antarctic summer that was pleasantly surprising was the sun, which shines 24 hours a day, every day. It's a goth kid's worst nightmare. How are you expected to keep creepily pale with that damn sun out all the time?!? I really thought the perpetual sun would start wearing on my psyche but so far I've rather come to enjoy it. It's never difficult to wake up in the morning, I sleep like a rock so it's no biggy when it's bed time, and it keeps the weather much warmer all day. Leaving the bar at 1AM to a bright sunshiney day is a bit unnerving. Really makes you feel like a booze hound who's been pounding drinks all afternoon. Now that I think about it, it's probably horrible for anyone with a hangover. Goth kids and people with hangovers, those are the only people who dislike the perpetual sunshine. The only real downside of all the sunshine is something called snow blindness, which is essentially sun burn on your eyes (lovely, I know). On a clear day, everywhere you look is unbelievably bright. There is literally nowhere to divert your eyes from the brightness. It makes photography quite a bit easier but it requires everyone to wear sunglasses or ski goggles at all times outside. The native people in the Arctic solved this problem with wood glasses with slits in them called "Eskimo Goggles". And yes this was fashionable even before Kanye West found out about them.

From Mike's Bi-Polar Adventure

The weather is of course a big deal down here. Vicious winds, snow, and cold can move in abruptly. Not only is it an inconvenience, it's dangerous. Getting caught away from base on foot, on skis, or even in a vehicle is risky business. There are stories of people having to take shelter in emergency shelters or by digging down into the snow. To classify the severity of the weather, a simple system has been developed which breaks down the various conditions into 3 parts. "Condition 3" is the best case scenario for weather. In this case, winds tend to be moderate and visibility is not hindered by blowing snow. "Condition 2" gets a little more scary with low visibility and high winds. Bitter cold often accompanies Condition 2. Travel between buildings / facilities is limited and frowned upon during Condition 2. "Condition 1" is the most fearsome of them all. In this scenario, visibility is non-existent due to high winds and blowing snow. The snowy wind not only prevents you from seeing beyond the reach of your hand, but the sound of it prevents you from even yelling to someone standing immediately next to you. Going outside during Condition 1 is strictly forbidden unless under the most extreme of scenarios (like if there is a Vikings game on and you are stuck somewhere without a TV). I have yet to experience anything but Condition 3.

Until next time, stay warm frozen friends! We travel soon the land of the balloons...

No comments:

Post a Comment