Six Months of Continuous Darkness at the Antarctic

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A letter recently written to a lady who is currently a member of the Scott Base Team on how to while away the winter darkness in the Antarctic.

How to cope with the darkness ? It affects some more than others, especially those without a clear program of work for the winter.  For myself, I had to visit my magnetic [actually non-magnetic!] huts every 12 hours.  This involved a trek by torchlight (or flashlight to Americans!), often on hands & knees if there was a bad blizzard, as was common.  I was the only poor guy who had to go out this often.  Others, especially Hillary’s crowd mostly prepared for their summer work and probably slept a lot.  Some over indulged in alcohol but this wasn’t on for any of the scientists with a clear program of work

And, I could conceivably have got lost outside and no one actually checked to see if I had returned from my 12- hourly outing. I only had a glass at the mid winter celebration and then did not miss my 12 hour trek. In later years alcohol was a problem, so I believe.

Do as much as possible in the darkness even if it’s nothing more exciting than writing reports about what you did in the summer.  But don’t tell me that you didn’t come to Scott to write reports!!!

When the sun returns there always seems to be a lot to catch up with even if it’s just taking pictures in the strange new phenomenon called sunlight. (By the way, you haven’t told what your speciality is.)

We had a weekly winter talk, after dinner, on every Tuesday if I remember right. No exceptions allowed. Hillary’s was about crocodile hunting in the Solomon Islands during the War (our war ie.WW2).  Mine was on Interplanetary Travel.  Remember this was a few weeks BEFORE the Russian Sputnik amazed the world.   Bob Miller, who was the effective base leader, talked about Spanish Bull Fighting.  The aim was to avoid anything to do with the Antarctic and why we were there.

Anyway, for most of us scientists the winter passed fairly easily, then.

Vern Gerard.

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