A phenomena normal for thousands of people is celebrated in Antarctica: The first sunrise after months of darkness. The return of the light is also the start for an important Antarctic summer season for New Zealand as it signifies 60-years since the construction of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut, the original Scott Base.

A natural daily phenomena normally taken for granted every day is special in Antarctica – the sunrise. (Photo: Katja Riedel)
A natural daily phenomena normally taken for granted every day is special in Antarctica – the sunrise. (Photo: Katja Riedel)

The first sunrise over Scott Base has be an applauded spectacle following four months of total darkness for Antarctica New Zealand’s winter-over team at Scott Base. On August 20 the sun rose for the first time over the horizon, a welcome indicator of summer for the 11 people wintering over. For the past few days before, Kiwi filmmaker and support staffer Anthony Powell has captured some stunning photographs of the polar stratospheric nacreous clouds, also known as or mother of pearl clouds, due to its iridescence. These spectacular clouds became visible at noon last week just below the horizon.

A magnificent dawn delighted Scott Base staff, who last saw the sun on April 24. Nacreous Clouds over the NASA Radome, McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Photo: Alan Light)
A magnificent dawn delighted Scott Base staff, who last saw the sun on April 24. Nacreous Clouds over the NASA Radome, McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Photo: Alan Light)

Antarctica New Zealand's winter science technologist, Tim Delany, headed to the Arrival Heights laboratory near the base today to witness the spectacle, getting there 10 seconds before it rose. ''It was pretty good to see the sun again and this was the first time I'd seen nacreous clouds from Arrival Heights. They were pretty awesome and almost filled the dawn sky,'' he said.  It took 30 minutes for the sun to rise completely and an hour later, it set again. But Mother Nature flexed her muscles, with the first flight to Antarctica on Saturday cancelled because of bad weather. The flight was supposed to start the annual winter flight programme, known as Winfly. The Winfly schedule includes three Airbus and two C17 flights over the next week. In total, 200 personnel will be heading south, eight of which will be Antarctica New Zealand support staff. For the first time this year, flights south were scheduled during April, June and July which removed the winter-over isolation, carrying freight and ‘freshies’ (fresh fruit and vegetables).

In winter the darkness of the polar night makes Scott Base a homely place to retreat. (Photo: Katja Riedel)
In winter the darkness of the polar night makes Scott Base a homely place to retreat. (Photo: Katja Riedel)

The bad weather also meant that Scott Base staff saw the sun a day later than anticipated. Winter Chef, Keith Garrett commented, “If the sun doesn’t manage to peek over the horizon, the beginning of summer will still be celebrated with a grand feast this evening. “If the rising sun cannot bring a smile to our faces today, the food certainly will,” says Mr Garrett. Antarctica New Zealand Logistics Manager, Paul Woodgate, a 35-year veteran of the New Zealand Antarctic programme says, “The usual gear is heading south to get the season up and running, including a lot of stuff to support the Hillary Field Centre construction project. The flight will bring spare parts to finish off the winter works programme, and of course the team are keen to get their ‘freshies’ and mail.”

Official Season Opening events, which include a civic reception, a public opportunity to visit Antarctic aircraft, a wreath-laying ceremony hosted by the Antarctic Society, and a Church Service happen in Christchurch, New Zealand’s gateway to Antarctica, the weekend of 30 September. “The 2016-17 Antarctic research season is particularly important to New Zealand as it signifies 60-years since the construction of Sir Edmond Hillary’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition Hut, the original Scott Base. This also highlights the beginning of New Zealand’s presence and leadership on ice,” says Peter Beggs, Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive. Main-body flights for support staff and scientists forming the 2016-17 Antarctic research season begin from 3 October 2016.

Source: Antarctica New Zealand and The Press