Sunday, July 05, 2015
Last night Math Man and I watched a documentary about life in Antarctica on Netflix. The film by New Zealand filmmaker Anthony Powell, focusses not on the science, but on the everyday life of the people who work to support the science. The cooks, shopkeepers, pilots and communications techs. Through the austral winter. As I sit on my back patio, surrounded by greenery, warmed by the sun, it's hard to imagine that at this moment it's dark 24 hours a day and 27oF below zero at McMurdo station. (Fascinatingly, Google's weather icon shows a bright yellow sun for "clear" at McMurdo, though the sun was last seen above the horizon on April 24th.)
The film is visually rich, with beautiful time lapse photography of vast panoramas and tiny details. The rugged reality of a visit to the penguins in midsummer is revealed, along with delightful clips of penguins flying in and out of the water. It's not hard to see why it won so many awards.
I was struck by the silence in the desolate Dry Valleys — no trees to rustle in the wind, no birds chirruping, no traffic noise. This morning, I was struck by the silence in my own backyard. Yes, I could hear the birds, and the bell ringing in the tower of the Episcopal church a mile and quarter away. But there was no roar of air conditioners, no leaf blowers screaming, no rumbling of lawn mowers. It wasn't silence in the same sense as that scene in the Dry Valley, but there was the same sense of stillness in the air.
As an aside, Dropbox mailed me a flashback, a handful of photos taken more or less around the 4th of July for almost the past decade. I was struck by how many years I've been on retreat around the 4th.