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Antarctic conservation blog archive

Aurora hunters - part 2

Jane, Tuesday 22 June 2010

Temperature: -37.6°C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C
Sunrise: None
Sunset: None

A few of us at Scott Base, New Zealand’s Antarctic research station, had been waiting for a still night when we could walk up Crater Hill and look at auroras (natural light displays in the sky, usually observed at night, particularly in the polar regions). For many days we watched the weather. The temperature would be about -20 to -25°C with no wind, but by the time we finished work in the evening the wind would pick up to about 20 knots which means that it would feel as if it was about -50°C or colder, even worse on top of the hill. But on Monday the temperature was a balmy -25°C, with no wind and no clouds - perfect conditions!

Aurora hunters - Sandy, Jane and Steven lying on the ice lake at the top of Crater Hill © Antarctic Heritage Trust

Aurora hunters - Sandy, Jane and Steven lying on the ice lake at the top of Crater Hill © Steven Sun

We were dropped off at the base of the hill and climbed up the scree slopes. At the top of the hill there is a crater with an ice lake. The frozen lake has humps in it where the ice has been compressed by pressure and big and small cracks lead out from them. A torch on the ice showed up the huge ice crystals and cracks that were forming. It was really beautiful!

At the edge of the crater we looked down on Scott Base and as we did so a faint aurora became visible. As we started to walk back to the base the aurora became stronger and seemed to dance over the base. The display was so amazing that we had to radio back to Scott Base to advise that we would be back later than the sign out time we had given We were even too distracted to think about taking out our cameras!

The aurora dancing over Scott Base © Steven Sun

The aurora dancing over Scott Base © Steven Sun

I had been contemplating whether or not to go out as I was quite tired after work, but I am so glad I did. It is very easy to become complacent about where you are and not take full advantage of this wonderful place. We are a bit blasé about the auroras now. We have the opportunity to see them nearly every day. We just need to remind ourselves every now and then that we are privileged to have the opportunity to see them at all. This was a fantastic night, one of those nights that reminds me of how lucky I am to be here and what an amazing place this is.

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