Saturday, February 9, 2008

Eclipse Town

South Pole Solar Eclipse

Four days left to go. I'm on a 1AM - 5PM work schedule right now. The schedule has picked up considerably as everyone tries to fit in as much work as possible before we redeploy back to New Zealand.

One noteworthy event happened a day and a half ago: a near-total (80%) eclipse of the sun. I stayed up several hours later than usual to see it. A bunch of us "beakers" went out when it started in order to see the light change and to take pictures. Wind chills were about -75F. You know it's cold when your eyelids try to freeze shut when you blink, or when you can eat the icicles forming on your mustache.

We stood outside for awhile and struggled with failing batteries, aching fingers and fogging glasses, got a few blurry pictures of the eclipse, then took a few shots at the Geographic and Ceremonial Poles and headed inside to warm up. Once inside, we found out we were too early for the real action. Soon most of the people on station were crowding at the windows and doorways (unwilling to face the mustache icicles by bundling up and going outside). Several people had sheets of aluminized mylar which served as an excellent filter for photography. I was glad I had brought my big lens, as it made the above picture possible (see Flickr for more pictures).

The neat thing about the eclipse was the light really changed - after 25 days of mostly blazing sunlight, it was as close to night at the South Pole as I am likely to get. While the eclipse did darken everything, it had the effect of increasing contrast and adding a liquid silver tonality to the snow surface which usually sparkles like powdered diamond dust.

We hit a record low of almost -55F during the eclipse.

It was a late day for me but the sights and photos (and camaraderie with other shivering, clicking and squinting Polies) were worth it. As an added benefit, I am half-way shifted over to the day schedule now, which will make returning to NZ more restful.

No comments: