What Happens in the South Polar Night...
With just one month to the Antarctic winter solstice, the South Pole is shrouded in darkness and temperatures have plummeted below -100F (-73C). And with the extreme conditions come spectacular displays of Aurora Australis, Yukimarimos, and 300 Club activities.
There have already been some amazing auroras. Fantastic photos and video taken by overwinter staff are available on the USAP website and various personal blogs. There is also a dramatic hand-held video on YouTube, by Daniel Leussler.
300 Club Activities
In early May temperatures stayed below -100F (-73C) for several days, triggering ‘300 Club’ activities. Station personnel first warmed up in the sauna, heated to +200F (93C), then ran naked in the snow to the Ceremonial Pole in -100 degree weather, ran around the Pole and back inside the station, thus surviving a 300 degree temperature change!
Then there are Yukimarimos, fragile snowballs that form only in the heart of the Antarctic plateau and only in winter. South Pole waste management specialist Marie Mclane blogged about discovering Yukimarimos on a frigid day when she went outside to dip the fuel tanks. “These balls of snow form best deep in the Antarctic winter, when the air temperature is below minus 60 °C (minus 76 °F), and there is a gentle wind blowing – conditions under which even well-equipped polar explorers stay in heated buildings. In this frigid environment, delicate needles of hoar frost form on the surface of the snow. Some of these are rolled about by the wind and create these fragile snowballs, which grow to a size of about 30 mm.” The phenomenon has only recently been scientifically documented. Japanese researchers discovered the dainty snowballs at Dome Fuji and named them ‘yukimarimo’. ‘Yuki’ is the Japanese for snow, and ‘marimo’ is a globular water plant found in a lake in Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island.” More information about Yukimarimos can be found in this Nature article. www.nature.com/news/1999/990902/full/news990902-9.html
Waiting for Summer
While a few lucky (?!) souls may spend the winter at Antarctic research stations, the rest of us are eagerly awaiting the 2013 Antarctic summer to explore Antarctica and the South Pole. Imagine setting foot at the South Pole – Amundsen and Scott’s coveted prize; or overnighting at that most remote destination on earth. Spaces on Adventure Network International's 90South Overnight and South Pole Flights Experiences are selling fast. Contact us for more info or to reserve your place.
Banner image credit: Calee Allen, National Science Foundation