Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What if the Sun Never Came Up Again?

Just two months ago I watched the sun set for the first time in 2013.  The transition from 24 hour daylight to a real day and night cycle to the ensuing darkness has been a quick one.

Walking toward the last sunset
Having a real day and a real night has made me feel more like a real person.  I felt less like I was in a strange place at the bottom of the world.  I felt more at home with a normal cycle of light; even though I can usually feel at home almost anywhere (and nowhere at the same time). The 24 hours sunlight left nothing under the cover of darkness.  There was never a time that light prevented you from doing something.  I could always see where I was and on every clear day I could walk outside and be reminded of where on earth I was.  But now that is gone.  The night takes over my mornings, the alpenglow is taking over my lunchtime and the twilight clings to my walk home from work.  But all this is trending toward darkness for all.

The sun barely peaks out behind Mt. Erebus on April 23, 2013

Excitement over the last sunset
I know I'll be excited to see stars and everything the night has to offer every time I walk outside, but I didn't realize how great the real day/night cycle was until the sun finally set.  If I can't see the sea ice and the mountains it will be hard to fully feel where I am.  What else will the darkness bring?  Will my world really only exist within the small beams of the street lights and headlamps?

Liz tries to catch the last of the sun
I've thought a lot about this while stepping along the crunchy snow in the dark hours after an alpine start to climbing a mountain.  Your world starts out so small: just the few feet that the headlamp illuminates.  The only other light around is what the stars shoot down and the only visible feature is the ominous silhouette of the mountains that surround you.  But, slowly over the hours of climbing a whole new world emerges.  The stars disappear as the sky turns to blue and orange and the mountains turn pink and white as the darkness rescinds into daylight. This happens in a matter of hours.  I'm going through the opposite of this in a matter of days to weeks.  This process will happen again...taking days and August.  It's all part of the adventure of living in this place I've chosen to call home for the year.

On April 23, 2013, a small group of McMurdo residents took an extended lunch to search for the second to last sunset.  The last sunset could only be seen from far out on the ice shelf.  Getting out of town was rejuvenating after long hours working in shaded McMurdo.  Everyone was super excited to really see the sun for the last time in months.  We spent about two hours staring at the sun and taking in the last rays it had to offer.  It felt like a new beginning with new friends that would endure the same darkness as I would.  Our eyes did burn for hours after we returned to town though.  As a child I was always told not to stare into the sun.  We stared into the sun for over an hour trying to burn that last image into our minds.  Two days later I blink and think I can see the last view of the sun burned into my imagination.

High winds decorate our last sunset. April 24, 2013. 

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