As most of the United States prepares to broil under the June sun, researchers in Antarctica are preparing for five weeks of darkness before they see the sun again.
A video posted on the Facebook page of the Australian Antarctic Program shows the sunset on Tuesday near the Davis research station.
“Farewell sunshine! Yesterday evening (at 2pm), the winter expeditioners at Davis research station in #Antarctica enjoyed their last sunset for the next five weeks or so,” the post read.
“In minus 16°C, they were also thrilled to see a ‘sun pillar’, the collective glints of millions of ice crystals in the atmosphere. Hello #MidwintersDay!”
The sun will not be visible again on Earth’s southernmost continent until July 10, according to a news release on the project’s website.
“It’s incredible to think we won’t see the sun or feel it’s warmth for more than five weeks,” Davis research station leader Simon Goninon said.
He said all 19 researchers at the station waved goodbye to the sun on Tuesday.
The expedition is entering what it calls the “twilight zone.”
“We will have about three hours of civil twilight a day, with the sun between 0–6 degrees below the horizon, so it’s a bit like the dark side of the moon here right now,” Goninon said.
Not all research sites in Antarctica will have the same situation.
Mawson research station will go about two weeks without the sun, which will rise on June 13 and reappear June 29. Casey research station will have about two hours of sunlight a day.
On its Facebook page, the Australian researchers said they enjoy celebrating Midwinter’s Day.
“21 June in Antarctica is more than the shortest darkest day in the middle of the coldest time of year. It is the day on which light begins to return, a pivot point in a time of extreme isolation,” the post read.
“#MidwintersDay is the main annual celebration on most national stations, and Australian research stations are no exception. Traditions such as an icy swim, gift-giving, a special dinner and neighbourly greetings stretch back over a century or more.”
During the time when the sun is not around, researchers need to take extra steps to maintain their health, according to Dr. Jeff Ayton, the Chief Medical Officer of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Polar Medicine Unit.
“Our bodies are made to work on a body clock and that is driven by light. If we have the absence of light, then we can get in some difficulties in synchronising our sleep/wake patterns,” Ayton said in the news release.
“The key thing is to ensure expeditioners maintain a routine of working, eating and sleeping during these long periods of darkness, to help maintain their circadian rhythm,” he added.
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