Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Mid winter's day in Antarctica - 42 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 42 years ago today .

laboratory at Vanda station. For electricity we used a wind generator to charge our 24 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 would 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.

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


Ruahines said...

Kia Ora Bob - Ataahua. Great stuff and a lovely poem. Wish I would have known you when I was 22 but pretty cool now as well. What's in the glass being held in the bath? Also Bob, how do your knees make it through airport security? Heading back home next week and wondering about my hip. Te hei Mauri Ora!

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