Date: 25July 2012
Temperature: -23 deg C
Wind Speed: 22 knots
Temp with wind chill: -54 deg C
Oil painting by George Marston (1882-1940) entitled Aurora Australis
Now then, one of the obvious draws of experiencing an Antarctic winter is witnessing the Aurora Australis. My father is a wonderful photographer, and provided me with a great deal of information on how to capture this phenomenon, but I must confess that once the right conditions (or a sighting) are announced over the tannoy, all preparations fall out the window, and everyone is allowed to pile out of the base into the freezing temperatures to try their hand, quite literally ( ‘at -50C hands and fingers become clumsy from cold in a matter of minutes’).
Aurora Australis taken a few weeks ago AHT Stefan
The majesty of this vision is hard to encompass in words. You’re desperate to focus and chart the swirling radiating lines, but no sooner do you capture a fragment of the formation in your stare than it instantly shifts and dissipates Much like a magic eye, you have to train your eye on the middle-distance, and then the show begins.
100yrs after the heroic era, more scientific findings have allowed us the understanding that the auroras are charged particles from the solar winds colliding with atoms in the high atmosphere, but in the early 20th century the scientists of the expeditions like Simpson were still mulling it over. Earlier in the Discovery expedition, one of the men was thoroughly spooked by the vision, and used to leave cigarettes as an offering to gods, to try and make the aurora go away.
Here’s an exerpt from Scott’s journals that indicates why some might have found the aurora supernatural
“There is argument on the confession of Ponting’s inability to obtain photographs of the Aurora” “It is all very puzzling” R.F.Scott