Jen communicating with the locals (pic: Shane Mitchell)

Jen communicating with the locals (pic: Shane Mitchell)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jungle Jen Vs the Silence

View over the seaice from the DavisMet office 27 April- with a sundog through diamond dust (c) jfeast

I'm not even sure the moon went down today.

As we speak (as I write) I am watching the sun descend below Anchorage Island to my left, scattering oranges and pinks and purples across the lightly clouded afternoon sky, as the full moonface watches on through the window on my right flanked by its unbiquitous purples and blues indicating that although it's only 4pm, night is falling. The tinted windows on the office do nothing for the photos, and the cold dusk air outside sends a burning sensation down your throat like you've run a marathon in the early morning frost.
Plus, by the time I've donned the required twelve thousand three hundred and forty seven layers, the moment would be passed. I'm not going outside...
The colours reflected off the sea ice today have been really lovely.

I write to you from the Met office at Davis, heading towards hour 12 of my shift (only five and a half to go woohooo) during another rather unremarkable day weather wise. The wind has dropped off and the cloud has finally cleared to affirm that



the sun DOES still exist..


(you would think I would know better than to complain after two and a half straight months of 24 hour light.... how quickly I forget)

Its only a couple weeks now until the sun takes it's winter holidays from Antarctica and heads for warmer waters (probably feeling the absence of the seals, penguins and other assorted animal life who also declared it damn cold down here and staged a mass exodus), we will have almost six weeks where the sun does not come above the horizon beginning June 3rd... Not so good for tanning (that is if I could convince my freezing fingers to remove aforementioned layers of clothing to glimpse the sun in these temperatures).

It's going to be interesting.

Already a headtorch has become my best pal to and from work while negotiating the ever changing obstacle course of moving snow drifts. It's interesting to see the sprawl marks freezing solid into the drifts while the wind isn't blowing, you can see where people have misjudged the gradient over some sastrugi (picture small, steep sand dunes randomly appearing over what you recall being a flat, well worn road you tread multiple times each day) and landed face first in the snow.

They aren't all from me...

But it is definitely difficult to stifle the laughter when you see it happen.

I find it almost disappointing when I cop a faceful of snow and there is no-one to snicker.

But then I suppose I wouldn't be out of bed at 5:30 in the morning if they didn't pay me to either!

Anyway, the inspiration to post came from the prologue of a book I picked up in the wallow (station lounge/ recreation area) called:

Slicing the Silence;
Voyaging to Antarctica

By Tom Griffiths

I liked the cover.

The book explores the human history to Antarctica. Tom Griffiths spent some time at Casey a few years ago, and ties in stories from the early polar explorers and his own experiences travelling to the ice.The chef down here (I think) has been through and underlined a few sections that he found interesting, The final paragraph of the prologue is what immediately caught my eye....

" History down south, as in any society, is a practical and spiritual necessity, but especially so in a place where human generations are renewed every summer and the coordinates of space and time are warped by extremes. And on a continent claimed by various nations but shared by the world, history carries a special international obligations. It is the fundamental fabric of a common humanity.
Antarctica has become, in the words of Barry Lopez, 'a place from which to take the measure of the planet'. It is a global archive, a window on outer space and a scientific laboratory; it is also a political frontier, a social microcosm and a humbling human experiment. It offers us an oblique and revealing perspective on modern history, an icy mirror to the world. To voyage to Antarctica is to go beyond the boundary of one's biology towards a frightening and simplifying purity. It is a land of enveloping silence. How does life sustain itself in the face of such awesome indifference? In Earth's only true wilderness the fundamentals of existence are exposed.
To survive, you need food, you need warmth, and you need stories. "

I like that. With winter on the mind, more and more people taking advantage of the good weather and diminishing sunlight to get out into the field, and the lack of animals and movement as the sea ice has frozen the swaying icebergs into a relative stillness, I liked his summary of this place......

You haven't experienced silence until you have sat on a rock, on a still night, under a flickering aurora peppered with stars in antarctica, and realised that the only sound for thousands of kilometers around you is the rustle of your hood against your jacket, and the sound of your own breath.

It's another world

(Altocumulus through Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder, earlier in the year at Davis 2011)
(photo Jenny Feast)

1 comment:

  1. When did you become so articulate? Too much time to procrastinate. Love you M