A Midwinterish Tale

The tradition amongst many OAEs (Old Antarctic Explorers) I have the pleasure of knowing is to celebrate in a convivial manner the shortest (midwinter) day of the year. And this year as June 21 rolled around I was hardly in a position to wing my way to New Zealand to join in festivities with some of my colleagues of 1968-69. It may seem strange but in all my association with things south polar I have never had the pleasure of attending such an erstwhile gathering. This is mainly due to the fact that soon after leaving the ice in 1969 we scattered. Some remained in New Zealand while others departed for global pursuits in such places as Australia, the US, South Africa, and the UK. Me? I found my path to the Fiji Islands from where I emigrated to Canada two years later. Add in marriages, children and careers, and contacts (no internet or email, remember) disappeared into the polar night.

The reunion I spoke of in an earlier post kinda reversed all that and now with the benefit of email the world has shrunk and I was able to wish all OAEs a great Midwinter Day, the celebration of which is obvious as the shortest then moves to the longest. For me, Lois and I went camping to celebrate…you’ve got it…the longest day when we can sit outside and read the newspaper at 10 o’clock at night, even though we are still waiting for that good hot Canadian prairie summer. Alister, our Welsh OAE, marked his longest day in the Cayman Islands by making sure everything was battened down for the start of the hurricane season. I even had the technology to send out an iPhone picture and message from our sunny Rockies campground!

The surprise we had ¬†in that week was a visit from Bob, a high school chum of Lois and her twin brother Lynn. The visit was brief and we enjoyed the company of Bob and his wife Joy in our home and I got to relate a bit about what I am doing for this book. Lo and behold, Bob who has lived in Australia these past 30 years or more, ¬†dropped into the conversation that he too had enjoyed the rigours of Antarctica during his years as a geology student at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. He’d had two trips south for short exploration forays into the Dry Valleys in 1963 and 1965. Following his 1963 trip he co-wrote a technical paper “An Ablation Rate For Lake Fryxell, Victoria Land, Antarctica.”

Lake Vanda in the Wright Dry Valley, Antarctica, 1968

Lake Fryxell is in the Taylor Valley, south of the Wright Valley. It has similar characteristics to Lake Vanda, the object of my team’s affections!

(a story continued)