August in the first Antarctic Night

Through the First Antarctic Night”,  or to give it’s full title, “Through the First Antarctic Night 1898-1899: A Narrative of the Voyage of the Belgica Among Newly Discovered Lands and Over an Unknown Sea about the South Pole” by Frederick Albert Cook is an account of the first over-winter stay by human beings (known) in the Antarctic. Of course, an Antarctic Winter is also an Antarctic Night. Cook would later be disgraced and imprisoned for fraud, as well as having his reputation tarnished by a dispute with Robert Peary over who first reached the North Pole.

 

“The month of August was, on the whole, one of the greatest disappointments of our experience in the Antarctic. We expected low temperatures and bright, cheerful weather. With the coming sun we hoped to dispel our anaemia and make ourselves ready for a series of difficult tasks to be undertaken in September and October; but instead we failed more and more in strength, and developed alarming mental symptoms. One man was temporarily insane, and several others were nearing a similar condition. The weather was stormy, the atmosphere was charged with clouds of sand-like drift-snow, and the sun was almost constantly invisible, though it rose higher and higher and swept more and more of the horizon daily. For one month following sunrise, like the month preceding its departure, the conditions were in effect a part of the night. It is true we had a little misty grayness at noon which we called daylight, but this was counterbalanced by the never ceasing tempests which drove such a blast of cutting snow that life outside was impossible. The first glimpses of sunlight had aroused us to new ambitions, and to spasmodic spells of cheerfulness, but this hellish series of storms sent us again into the most abject gloom of the night.”

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