Last Sunday the Sun disappeared below the Antarctic horizon not to return for over three months. The crew at Concordia research station will live and work under artificial light in complete isolation.
Antonio Litterio describes the feelings of fear and amazement and suggests you listen to "Wild Side" by Italian musician Roberto Cacciapaglia as you read this entry. This unofficial video of the song was suggested by Roberto himself as a suitable version to play while reading:
Antarctica continues to change as it enters a new phase and the kingdoms that make up this immense territory will follow. The kingdom of light is about to end. The midday sun is now afraid to show herself on the horizon. She looks shyly at us for a few minutes each day, peering from a distance as if to make sure that we are well before she leaves.
The light offers security, but in a few hours this caring mother will leave us to face the biggest challenge for both the group and individuals during three months of the longest night on the face of the earth.
Anyone who says that Antarctica is devoid of colours has never lived here. It is true that during the Summer the predominant colour is the white of snow in the blinding light of day. But even when the Sun shines high above its kingdom, those who look further than the end of their nose will see many shades of colour reflected in the personalities of the people who are living this experience. The wonder they experience at arrival in the Antarctic dessert and the sadness of departure.
Then there are the colours reserved for those who face the Antarctic winter, the first sunset clouds on the horizon are tinged by incredible hot colours. Then comes the night, the darkness, promising a blackness to put fear in us, but also supplying a great spectacle, the stars, the Milky Way and something even more amazing, that my eyes had never seen before.
It is night, the few people around me on the base are in the office, the new kingdom is ruled by the King and Queen of silence. An incredible event is waiting for me out there. I finish writing some e-mails and decide to go to sleep, but before I do I look out of the window and in the midst of the clear black sky, dotted with a myriad of stars, I see a strange light. A strange cloud that seems to be coloured green, but no... that is not a cloud.
There is no time to lose, I run like the wind to prepare. Adrenaline is rushing through my body, my desire to see this show is overwhelming. I catapult through the entrance as I put on my outdoor clothes, my only light is a headlamp I have with me. I turn it off and I look up to the sky and there, suspended over my head, is an incredible display, a long and winding trail that extends from the horizon. A green, living, moving thing. My visor clouds up and I take it off. My eyes do not hurt as they get burned by the cold, but even if you do not feel pain in Antarctica, at -65°C, you know it does not mean that the eyes are not suffering.
I stay there watching that light high-in-the-sky for a bit longer. Once back inside and tucked in under the blankets, all sleep leaves the room and the insomnia of astonishment takes over. I cannot relax after the most incredible view my eyes have ever witnessed, my first Aurora.