Nights in Antarctica
OFFSHORE NEW HARBOR CAMP, ANTARCTICA– The sea ice pops and cracks beneath our camp. They said the cold would make me sleep. But the sound is eerie entertainment that keeps my mind from slumber. My eyes search the tee-peed ceiling of my Scott tent for the faintest flaw. The sun refuses to set but lingers instead in variations of dusk. There is a rhythm here my body will take days to get used to. I’m so familiar with the sounds darkness brings that I only notice them here where darkness never comes. There is no hush, no stillness, no shift of energy and sound between night and day.
The rattle of my tent varies with the wind. One manmade sound comes and goes. The generator rages only when the solar panels cannot feed our computers and technical equipment with enough energy. Some in our party claim to have heard penguins last night, I did not.
The lack of darkness brings one perk for an insomniac. No flashlight is needed and fear of the dark does not keep you from roaming the ice at night. It’s not the dark but the cold we fear here. I bundle up and wander through our small camp and count, then recount the tents. I analyze the subtle differences in their shades of yellow.
My thoughts travel home to red ants on oak trees and mustard greens in the breeze. I am a long way from home. There is nothing green here, nothing grows toward the sun. I wonder when I might feel sand between my toes or here crickets in the darkness.
Tomorrow the work we came here for begins. Data collection is only hours away. I plan on leaving nothing of myself. I will work till my body aches. I will have peace of mind and body once the day is done. Tomorrow night I will defy the sun and make my own night as I sleep.