'Unexpectedly moving' - Kiwis welcome first sunrise in Antarctica in 6 months

Breanna Barraclough
Source: 1News

As New Zealand settles into lockdown, Kiwis in the most isolated place in the world are welcoming their relative freedom, watching the sun rise for the first time in six months.

The first sunrise of the 2021-2022 summer lights the sky in Antarctica.

For the team of New Zealanders spending the winter at Scott Base in Antarctica, this week was the first time they saw the sun for nearly six months.

“It was unexpectedly moving and massively energising,” Jamie McGaw, the winter science technician, told 1 NEWS.

“You certainly don’t realise how much you miss that giant ball of fire until it’s gone for five months.”

McGaw has been at Scott Base for nearly a year, deploying at the end of last September. It’s been a year like no other.

“Watching the Covid pandemic play out on the TV1 news and sweep across the world from the relatively safety of Scott Base has been a little surreal at times - like a bad movie or a ludicrous black comedy,” he says.

But seeing the lockdown in New Zealand has been a “welcome relief”, he adds.

“New Zealand went hard, fast once again and didn’t waffle about.”

While there’s no Covid-19 at Scott Base or the neighbouring McMurdo Station, with strict prevention protocols in place for those flying down through New Zealand, it has impacted the science carried out at the Antarctica research sites.

“This past season has been much quieter overall, definitely more so than my first summer here (which was incredibly busy) with less science events being able to make it down with the added complexity of Covid precautions,” McGaw says.

“This upside for me personally is that we are able to take on some of this tasking on behalf of the scientists that couldn’t travel, which means we got to do quite a few things in the field that we wouldn’t normally, and keep New Zealand science in Antarctica rolling along.”

With the first sunrise of the season, it means the days will gradually get longer from the 24-hour darkness the Kiwis have endured so far.

“Personally it’s a little bittersweet as it also means the winter is over and my season will soon draw to a close and I’ll have to rejoin the world at large, as it is,” McGaw says.

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