Cradled between the two mountains, was our destination. We set off in the BV at 0900hrs towards Pullen and
. Our journey was going to take about an hour and I could barely contain my excitement as we set ourselves up to carry on. I checked to make sure my batteries were charged, that I had two memory cards and that I had everything I was going to need - at least ten times. Then we set off. Crystal Mountains
Sitting in the back container, crammed in like little excited sardines, were ten people. Each member of the group had gone different lengths of time without seeing the sunlight, varying from just over a week to almost four months. I have just hit my 3 month mark and halfway point in my tour, so for me, I have gone 88 days without the sunlight – not that anyone is counting.
It's a very difficult concept for people to understand; 88 days without the sun. Roughly a few hundred people a year get to experience Alert but even fewer for the dark season. Explaining the darkness has always been a bothersome topic for me as I have a very different job here than many on the station, working many long hours in the seclusion and isolation of my office. For me, it was a permanent 2100hrs (9 o'clock pm) and I felt as if I ended up blending into the shadows of the perpetual night. The dark season, although I did not let it be apparent, was hard on me. I found it difficult to find the happiness, to find light and to feel at ease while alone in a strange and harsh environment without a reasonable effort made internally each and every day. It seemed each day, was smearing into the next without any recognizable difference from the last. The dark to me was a blur.
The sun however, was a focal point, a sign of hope and a destination that I would reach. When I was having a rough day, I would close my eyes and picture seeing the sun shining over the ridge of the mountains, the light streaming onto my frozen skin and it would begin to melt away any sorrows I was feeling in that moment. The sun to me is more than just the largest object in the solar system; it reaffirmed that it is truly the source of life.
We carried along the bumpy trip with the frosted windows veiling any view of the outdoors. We passed the time with many laughs and a few motion sick passengers (it was really quite bumpy) and enjoyed the ride into the twilight as we pushed over the frozen land with evident purpose and excitement.
The freeze frame mental picture that particularly sticks out to me is March 3rd, 2012 at roughly 1000 in the morning. I will never forget the moment I saw the first of the suns rays sparkle against the frosted glass and shine into the BV. It is a difficult emotion to explain other than "lock yourself in a closet for 3 months and come out and see how excited you are" - those were my exact words to friends and family. I exited the vehicle and made my way into the balmy -50°C air and inhaled my first breath of pure contentment since taking my initial steps here, 88 long days ago.
I walked away from the group about fifty meters and sat down on the frozen mountain side. The sun, just cresting the ridge beyond where I was sitting, was as bright as I remembered but even more beautiful. So many thoughts crossed my mind in the moment where the light finally shined upon my face and even as I closed my eyes, I could feel the sunshine coming back into my heart. It was just as I had imagined. I was enchanted by the fact I could not feel any warmth on my cheeks as the tears froze instantaneously as they fell from my eyes. I was so moved by this experience that I will never take the smaller things for granted any further. Exhilaration, euphoria and simply happiness are all an understatement. I was in absolute bliss and my surroundings were stunning. I finally made it, it was finally the day.
The sun rise that day was nothing less than spectacular and absolutely amazing. Although the heat has not made it to Alert quite yet, I can feel my heart warmed by the shear realization that the smallest thing we take for granted, are those we miss most when living without.