My Antarctic Adventure – Part VI

Into the Dark  –  Copyright 1999 Jack W. Cummings

Before we moved to the Northwest in 1974, I had not thought much about the length of days and nights as we moved through the seasons. Since I left the Antarctic, I had been stationed in latitudes closer to the equator where the difference between night and day are not too different. We moved here in the June and I thought, gee, how nice it is to have such long days, almost 16 hours long. But then it got closer to winter and wow! I was leaving home to go to work in the dark and getting home in the dark. It started to remind me of the Antarctic.

Although I do noSummer Dayt recall the exact day the sun left us, it was somewhere during the middle of May. Sure we would have twilight for a few minutes each “night” until August, it was not something we went outside and made a big deal about. Besides, who was going to get up at midnight to see it? Two events associated with the sun are to be celebrated next: the “mid-winters night” party, and the first appearance of the sun in August.

Why celebrate “mid-winter”? For those wintering over it marks the halfway point to our return home. We had a cook at Palmer Station in 1965 that had his own way of marking time; the first day of the month meant that that month was almost over and we could now look forward to the next.

Mid-winter’s celebrations, as far as I know, date back to much earlier expeditions. Small crews dictated long workdays and in some cases  7-day workweeks. So by the time mid-winter arrived, everyone was ready for a party. Dress was as kooky as one could come up with, and yes there was plenty of food, refreshments and dancing. Lacking any females on the crew, we reluctantly danced with each other. We must have been a sight! On some stations, this celebration usually meant it was time for some “harmless” fun. With three Kiwis on board, the pranks got very innovative. Continue reading “My Antarctic Adventure – Part VI”