There are temperate places on Earth where, looking through the forest canopy toward the night sky, one would find in the shadows vines clinging to crenated bark, moss hanging limp from branches, and hints of the heavens piercing heavy, moist air. Tonight, however, an upward glance from our sleeping bags reveals green arches, Jamesway blankets flapping in the wind, and an upside-down wardrobe of layers. Moments ago we were onions of polypropylene leggings and undershirts, silk socks, wool socks, Thinsulate glove liners and Gore-Tex glove shells, wind pants, briefs (not boxers), knickers, hats, gaiters, goggles, a Big Red parka, and bunny boots. Unwashed and unkempt, the outerwear is sprayed with the ocean, their fringes crusted in white. The innerwear is likewise moist, although sweat - being more organic than seawater - thankfully fails to encrust. We inhale dry desert air laden with Taylor Valley dust, and exhale the taste of instant decaf mixed with cocoa. Geologists, biologists, artists, and divers - eight souls on board a tiny camp at the edge of the world.
The layers sway as the Jamesway tosses and turns in the wind. Overhead are the thrashing sounds of flags made by schoolchildren, mounted on bamboo poles now bent by the katabatic wind. Their thrumming warns of danger and spawns thoughts of home. Will cargo straps fail and launch barrels through the tent? Will loves fail and pierce our hearts? We share smiles as our insulation holds, our isolation fades, and our workday is closed by sleep.
We relish a nighttime of sunshine at Explorers Cove, Antarctica.