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One Day, One Night: Portraits of the South Pole

By Kate Kight

Washington DC (The Hollywood Times) 2/13/18 – While democracy may very well die in darkness, science and civilization have managed to find a way to flourish during the world’s longest night. Residents of the Antarctic pole brave the harshest conditions on earth in the pursuit of knowledge and adventure.

Explore Life at the South Pole in One Day, One Night: Portraits of the South Pole

At once a scientific exploration and an intimate diary of everyday life at the pole, One Day, One Night takes you through the interminable darkness, marked in equal parts by excitement and drudgery.

With an average winter temperature of – -56.2 F (-49c) the deep cold of Antarctic winter brings expected dangers. Just reading through the gear Jennifer and John done before disembarking at the pole is exhausting. The dangers that inspire the greater terror, however, is the desolation, even at the base. Low visibility and treacherous winds make getting to work a deadly affair for those who fail to follow safety procedures. Yet this book is doesn’t deal solely with the adrenaline of living on the edge of civilization. Jennifer gives us a firsthand look at the mundanity of dishwashing, a job filled with the same rigors (split shifts!) and frustrations of dishwashing anywhere in the world.

Dr. John Bird at the South Pole Marker

The close quarters of the pole create deep bonds between “Polies”, although the never-ending night also brings rising tensions. Broken laser parts are cause for experiment-threatening delays, while frustrations over kitchen inefficiencies make already stressful conditions nearly intolerable. Jennifer and John persist on, however, and create a portrait of a world that is as stunningly beautiful as it is inhospitable.

Hercules plane

Despite being covered in snow and ice, “Antarctica ranks as the world’s largest desert”. Diamond dust, known also as clear sky precipitation, is a more common form, and a google image search demonstrated that it is a stunning as its name suggests. Inhabitants of the pole seem never to lose sight of the majesty of their landscape, celebrating with naked runs when the temperature drops (successful participants join the exclusive 300 club, for those who have endured a temperature range of 300 degrees Fahrenheit). As daunting as the prospect sounds, the 300 clubs pales in comparison to the incident of the “PCCCLF”. Due to severe rationing of chocolate chips, which John notes “caused significant friction and morale problems” a batch of chocolate chip cookie baked for incoming residents causes  a basewide hunt for the goods.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is where world-class science happens against a backdrop of spectacular natural phenomena

These moments of awe and mundanity in “One Day, One Night” create a delightful contrast that brings life in the south pole to vivid reality.

Through John we learn the joy and awe of scientific exploration, and through Jennifer we see the pride of working in extreme conditions, not just weather related but borne of friction and frustration that results when company is limited. Jennifer makes it clear, upon receiving an email addressed to the “brave men” of their station, that polar women are no less brave or admirable, be they scientists, adventures, or contract workers.

The realities of modern life are present at the pole, relationships both platonic and romantic form, bonds forged in extreme conditions. The reader is mostly left to wonder at the realities of the intricate dances of courtship, but the results clearly speak for themselves! Three babies will be born in the months after the Antarctic winter, including our authors’ own!

John Bird

After the return trip home, the bonds that form from such an experience are clear. Not everyone survives the trip unscathed, and no one leaves Antarctica without it changing them forever, and bonding them forever.

“Our mishmash lingo ties us together offers a common identity in an inherent yet incoherent community, creates and characterizes our culture,  ensures our survival”.