|A hundred distant dawns|
Z or Dead
It's midwinter. Again. My second sleepy rush through the highlight of our extended midnight. The week or two before my body clock ran away and spun my sleep cycle through all the timezones of the world. First I couldn't sleep at all, then, with some relief, I could sleep but only by hitting my bed straight after tea, then sleeping through until the early hour of three AM. Nightwatch had me for company, while much of the life of the base passed me by in my sleep. Then, as midwinter approached my bedtime slipped slowly back, and now lies around midnight, roughly where it ought to be. Hopefully I can keep it there, and pass the next few weeks of darkness in relative normality.
Outside the edge of the sky burns dark red, sometimes a thin band stretched out under low clouds, sometimes a dirty smear of red that smoothly fades to black and admits the stars. The edge of the light just brushes the right hand of Orion, turning cartwheels as he vaults upside down above the orange glow. On one or two very special days, the reddest of the sun's rays skim the icy surface of the ocean far to the North of Halley only to be caught by a thin layer of very high cloud. Then the glow on the sky grows into a deep but pale purple, pierced by the brighter stars but light enough to cast a pink sheen onto the snow laying below.
I can see the horizon, but only as that's the black void where the sky stops. All other details are shrouded by night. Skiing or walking around is easy enough with stars to aid navigation, and the snow is level enough that falling over is rare. Flags and barrels are the only hazards, and these lay hidden in the gloom until springing into view once they're close enough to touch. The circle of half burried barrels that marks our perimeter is there but can't be followed from one barrel to the next. Instead I must launch myself in the right direction hoping I'll catch the next marker from the corner of my eye and so correct my course. There's no danger of getting lost, of course, as the bright lights of the buildings are easy to walk back towards, it's just difficult finding masts or cabooses on the first attempt.
The week of midwinter is one without work, almost, and filled with fun of our own imagining. The overall feeling, not a theme exactly, but the feeling, is of Christmas. We decorate the halls with the most garish bits of tinsel and balloons, and erect a poor excuse of a plastic tree to stand over the stack of presents we've constructed over the past three months.
We launched our celebrations by knocking off work a little early on Friday and migrating over to the Simpson platform for an "office" party. The evening was fun and filled with party games, including a guess-the-body-part photocopy gallery (with, to some suprise, no rudeness), and various challenges involving inflatable objects. The tiredness from the late night was kicked back awake the next morning with the Halley Ski-Snowball nordic biathlon. A ski out to the memorial, a round of snowballs to throw at tin cans, some penalty loops, and another run around the memorial to finish.
The competition continued on Sunday with a table tennis tournament, made interesting as this was the first day we'd assembled the tables since the start of the winter. This followed by the traditional showing of The Thing (which no longer scares me). The week then unfolded with a Prize Quiz (in which I was useless), a murder mystery (in which I wasn't even a suspect), a round of crazy golf featuring home baked holes (some of which did scare me), and an evening of modified carols out on the open platform. 40 below requires mittens and, for me at least, something on the nose, so my usually angelic voice was a little muffled, and we all had trouble turning the pages of our song sheets.
Midwinter itself was a gentle day, with a generally sociable ski in the morning, an epic meal late in the afternoon (made more amazing as our chef, Ant, has no fresh vegetables to play with), the giving and getting of presents, listening to the shortwave broadcast to the bases from the BBC World Service, then a night of partying. My present this year was for Brian, our plumber, and was a poem (ask me nicely and I can email you the text) presented in a fairly sucessful frame. I received an interesting bit of knotwork and was quickly able to guess that it came from Sune, our Field Assistant. Other people got scarves, games, puzzles, cheeseboards, models and statues, and all were of a quality that reflected the huge amount of work that we've put in over the last few months.
The week was then rounded off with a few films, some pool matches (again, I didn't excel), a photo competition (which I was glad I didn't win as I had to count the votes), and some time spent quietly recovering, swinging in a hammock, reading one of our "new" books. The Friday evening saw the first gig of Z or Dead, our excuse for a band. I played the bass, Mark and Dave sang and played guitar, and Dean hit things. Everyone else listened, as there was nowhere on the Laws far enough away for them not to. Our set of sleazy rock and eighties throwback tunes went down very well, if we're lucky they'll let us play again sometime...
My week was also lit up by the good folks who contribute to the Contrast Podcast. I've been listening to their varied choices of songs on different topics for a while now, and they were kind enough to theme their latest offering on midwinter. I'll post the song list later as we've currently got a weird one-way internet, but you can listen for yourself.
|^Back to Top^ | © Alex Gough 2007-06-24 | RSS 0.91 | RSS 2.0||... it gets cold again|