Sunday, 20 June 2010

Mid winter's Day, Vanda Station, Antarctica, 40 years on

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 40 years ago today .

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

For hygiene purposes, our toilet at Vanda Station was outside. Here is Tony Bromley on the thunder-box. When it got below - 40 degrees Celcius. it was dangerous as ones backside would stick to the painted seat and rip skin off. To solve this problem we made polystyrene seat covers to protect our bums. Photo: Bob McKerrow

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

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

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


The view of the Wright Valley taken from the survey station on the summit of Mt Newall (which now has a micro-wave 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


The Aurora Australialis

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.

10 comments:

pohanginapete said...

I've never been to Antarctica (although I'd love to spend time there), but I can imagine how it must affect its visitors — particularly the artists, poets and scientists (often the same individuals, I suspect). Thanks for the glimpse into life there, Bob.

Bob McKerrow said...

Kia Ora Pete, Antarctica, especially spending a winter there and a chance to experience the seasons, leaves an enormous impression 9n you.

the sheer beauty and aloofness enhances your creative side.

Thanks. Bob

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Maalie said...

Fascinating to read this. I was station leader there 1972/73 summer season. Jim Fowler

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iap said...

Loved thesw lines Bob.
"Soon will come the first blush of dawn
My life has changed my dash is done
O welcome the King, O welcome the sun"
Thanks 4 sharing

trace said...

my grandfather was the chef at scott base in 70/71. He said it was the greatest time of his life and he had been all round the world. When i was born Jan 71 he named my middle name Vanda after Vanda base and lake. I have met a couple of Vandas in my life but they dont know where there name had come from. So im very proud of my grandfather and my name. I also have all his pictures he took. very very Proud New Zealander.