Friday, 21 June 2019

Mid-Winter's Day in Antarctica. 49 years ago.

After four months at Scott Base, I arrived at Lake Vanda in January 1970 where I spent 10 months as a science technician. We celebrated mid-winter on 21 June 1970, some 49 years ago today .

Left: Our laboratory at Vanda station. For electricity, we used a wind generator to charge our 12 volt Nicad batteries. When there was no wind, we would use a small Petter diesel generator. Photo: Bob McKerrow



On reflection, the 13 months I spent in Antarctica was among the best of my life.

I remember vividly the last helicopter leaving us in early February and we knew it would be at least nine months before we saw anyone else.

i spent the winter with three other people, and still today, this is the smallest NZ group to winter-over in Antarctica.

At the end of the long winter's night where it was totally dark for four months, I looked in the mirror and saw myself for the first time in five months. I wrote in my diary " A man without a woman about him is a man without vanity."

A few weeks later while reflecting on the winter, I wrote " I turned 22 in March, it is now September. During the past five months, I have got to know and understand my worst enemy, myself."


The Wright Valley, View north through Bull Pass into Victoria Valley. The small stream flowing west (into Lake Vanda) is the Onyx.


The view of the Wright Valley taken from the survey station on the summit of Mt Newall (which now has a microwave tower on it).


We did long trips on foot in the late Autumn, throughout the winter and early Spring. Bob McKerrow left and Gary Lewis right, with frozen beards and faces. Photo: Bob McKerrow




Bath time at Vanda Station. Gary Lewis having a bath after six months Photo; Bob McKerrow


The old hand-painted sign outside Vanda Station

There was also the poem I wrote just before the long winter's night ended.

I journeyed south to an icy cage
The sun never shone, there was no day
When I looked into the jaws of night
Far off I saw the threads of life
Twisting themselves into an eternal web
That stretched unbroken from dawn to death
It was the Aurora that gladdened the eye
A frenetic serpent that snaked the sky
Pouring mellowed colours that sparkled rime
On icy pendants soon to sublime.
Yes high above towers all form
Soon will come the first blush of dawn
My life has changed my dash is done
O welcome the King, O welcome the sun
So today I will raise a glass of red to my old comrades who I wintered over with at Vanda Station, in that remore dry valley in Antarctica: Gary Lewis, Tony Bromley and Harold Lowe.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

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