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Stauchy Blog » Blog Archive » Sunset Party, Saturday March 24 (JRS)

Sunset Party, Saturday March 24 (JRS)

The sun only sets once a year down here, so a celebration is certainly called for. As with Thanksgiving and Christmas, the galley staff really outdid themselves, and we had a formal, sit-down dinner in order to celebrate sunset. After that, most of the station hung out in the galley, which with its large picture windows, is the perfect place to watch the sun float across the horizon.  For more, higher-res pictures, see our web gallery: Sunset Party.

Just before lunch, Andy called an All-Hands meeting, during which he told us that we could take the rest of the afternoon off, as a “Safety Stand-Down”. Early this morning (about 2am), something happened in the power plant that caused a power outage. So, in fixing the problem, most of the people on station had been up since then, so it was certainly a good idea to give them a chance to rest. The best part is that this was already a two-day weekend, which meant that we really got a 2.5 day weekend. Woo hoo!Lynette and I didn’t really get the afternoon off, since she had some things that needed to get done, and I had my usual daily checks. But, we were able to get finished up early and head to the gym before taking a shower and getting all prettied up for the Sunset Party. We realized that one main problem with our wardrobe down here is that we really only have daily wear stuff, and one nice outfit. But, out nice outfits seemed a bit overboard, so we headed to Skua (which is a spare bedroom in our hall for the winter) to find a skirt for Lynette. We found a nice silvery skirt which went well with Lynette’s pink long-sleeve shirt. I wore my new cargo pants (I’m saving them until mid-winter) and a polo shirt. Most people dressed similar to us, and a few people wore dressier outfits, so it was nice.Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, we did not have appetizers in the hall, but rather they were served to us (that’s the difference between having only 54 people now, compared to 250 this summer). We had scallops with a really nice seasoning. Lynette helped with the wine serving before dinner. After that, we were served dinner (several people had volunteered to serve appetizers, wine, desert, and the main course). I had the salmon which was served with a delicious cheesy cornmeal bread-type thingy, some green beans, and an excellent sauce (Neil, our chef, has a great knack for awesome sauces). Lynette had beef tenderloin with a shrimp garnish, mashed potatoes, root veggies, and of course, a nice red wine sauce. Earlier in the week, I was made fun of for saying that the best part of being married is that we get to order both dinners and share. Well, of course it isn’t the best part, but it certainly was a great perk tonight. The food was superb!


After dinner, most of us stayed in the galley. There are about 9, fairly large windows that run the length of the galley. In the evenings, the sun is on that side of the building, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy the orange hues of sunset. Robert, a guy who has wintered at the Pole several times before, set up a couple of pairs of binoculars and a telescope. Through the telescope, all you could really see is an orange slit, but we were all hoping that we’d be able to see the “green flash”, which is a phenomenon that occurs just as the sun fully sets because of the refraction with the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there was no sign of it. I think that the sun was still too high. But, it was still a beautiful orange glow and quite a sight.


Andy brought out the “Blue Steel” vest, which is a tradition here. Throughout the winter, he is getting everyone to wear it and sport their sexy pose. It’s a ridiculous blue and white fuzzy vest, and it’s pretty funny to see people’s sexy poses. Lynette and I both gave it a whirl.

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Before too long, a dance floor had opened up near the telescope, and people were having a good time over there. Lynette and I sat with several other folks at the lounge end of the galley. For some reason, people started doing acrobatics on the couches and chairs, and eventually, people moved on to “table bouldering”, which involves setting up a couple of long tables, and rock-climbing underneath them, from one end to the other. It was bizarre, but from what we understand, it’s another South Pole Tradition. That’s one that Lynette and I won’t be attempting.


At that point, we decided it was bed time. We got diverted on the way to bed when Lynette noticed one of the windows in the computer lab glowing orange. We went to check it out (it was a similar view as from the galley). While we were there, we got into a conversation with Johan, another Antarctic veteran, about when the sunset actually occurs.


Technically, the sun was already below the horizon, a couple of days before, but we could still see the image of the sun because of the refraction (i.e. bending) of light caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.

When we looked very closely at the sun, through binoculars, the image was wavy and unstable, kind of like looking at an object in the distance on a very hot day. From time to time, the upper part of the sun would actually appear to separate from the rest of the sun and hover over it.

This is caused by the light traveling through varying density layers of the atmosphere. He told us that last year, the sun “set”, then a couple of days later, rose again because of the varying density of the atmosphere. It’s all pretty cool stuff. At that point, it really was time for bed.



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