I felt like an outlaw bouncing up and down in the red truck with the United States Antarctic Program seal decorated on its side. I was dressed in my extremely cold weather gear (ECW). A puff ball riding shotgun with my body moving apart from my clothing which was moving apart from the off-roading truck. The path we drove hadn’t been frequented now that the winter season had replaced summer leaving only one researcher on base. Arrival Heights was our destination: a place off limits to non-research personnel unless personally invited. My host drove the buggy and I eagerly awaited the tour of the research station holding the high tech lidar lazer (which measures iron in the atmosphere) and the sight that swarmed above the research station’s head. It was above McMurdo, the base that I had called home for almost six months. Above the lights and buildings and into a more wild Antarctic though it was close enough to base that you could see the station as a city below glowing as if its place was normal growing out of the volcanic rock foundation. We arrived and my toes were already frozen by the time we walked to the ideal viewing position. My eyes pulled my head so that I was looking directly up and it was perpendicular to my body. The Milky Way was clouded across the middle of my view and each star twinkled and moved as if alive and smirking in its cold sky. Blue and white took their turns shining on the stars’ faces and the occasional large twinkle displayed red among these colors. These lights seemed to multiply with each blink as I compared it to the view from a lighted base. The horizon was wiped with green and yellow, the first markings of an emerging sun that had not showed its self in four months.
The sun’s journey back to McMurdo was a subject of fear and sadness for the winterovers. Spending so long in the dark my first view of the emerging sun was confusing. I stood in the dark shadow between dorm buildings away from pole lights and studied the green strip that sat on the horizon. I wondered to myself what it could be: aurora? Then I realized the sun’s presence. Surprising myself, I felt a smidge of fear and hurried into my building. The light has now been slowly climbing its way up the sky bringing with it the end of winter and the end of a milestone Antarctic adventure.
At Arrival Heights I found myself between the white snow and dancing sky surrounded in the soft glow of reflected sunlight. Above me was a display of upside down constellations. Behind me six months of an adventure and before me a life now changed by what had transpired in the dark of the Antarctic winter. I basked in the dim and sucked in the air as it froze in my mouth and lungs. I was standing on the top at the bottom of the world.