Yesterday, the whole crew gathered after lunch for the annual winterover photo. We'd decided to do it over by Spoolhenge, the final resting place for all the spools which formerly housed cables now running through the station and between buildings. They're too expensive to ship back north, so they languish behind the station, next to the berms. Spoolhenge makes a great subject for photography - I've never mentioned it or posted photos before because it's in the opposite direction from SPT, and I rarely made it back there through the dark of winter.
It's difficult to take photos of people outside, as they tend to breathe. Clouds of water vapor follow them around, fogging up the area and obscuring any potential shot. I had been recruited as photographer for the day, but wanted to be in the shot, so had my camera on a looped timer. I had to yell instructions from the back row (that's me with the pointy hat near the middle at the back), telling everyone to hold their breath, long enough to allow the haze to clear, before each shot.
Anyway, as the last of us were walking back to station, what to our wondering eyes should appear, but an enormous Yukimarimo! (For those of you who haven't the foggiest idea what that is, check out the earlier post on the subject.) On our previous encounter, the yukimarimos only got up to the size of a golf ball, maybe slightly smaller. This one was softball-sized, so big that it didn't seem to be able to roll anymore, at least not without much stronger wind.
Both I and my camera were frozen fairly solid by that point, so after a single quick shot, we had to run inside to thaw out. An hour later, warmed back up, and armed with three fully charged camera batteries, I went yukimarimo hunting.
There were none on the SPT side of the station - I knew that from my morning walk out. Instead, I headed back toward Spoolhenge, off into the antenna field. It didn't take long before I found some, rolling playfully around beside summercamp. Again, there were an enormous few, cantaloupe sized, sitting still under their own weight, while the smaller ones danced around.
I turned toward some drifts coming off nearby berms, and there found a sparse colony, cottonballs scattered about the landscape. It wasn't long before I started finding little nests of them, a dozen or more having rolled into a furrow in the landscape and become trapped. There was something about that image, puffballs huddled together in the glow of the sunrise, that I found tremendously cute. I guess that's what happens when you live in the cold and dark long enough - snow becomes cute and develops a personality.
Nobody here - not even the oldtimers - had ever seen giant yukimarimos before. Getting any at all is a treat, and to have these montrosities tumbling about is just amazing. As in March, they seem to have arrived with the sudden cold snap after last week's ridiculously hot & humid weather. That gives rise to lots of hoarfrost covering the landscape, and given a gentle enough breeze (though not too gentle), mother nature begins rolling snowballs. To get the big ones, that gentle breeze has to slowly build at just the right rate to continue rolling, but not breaking, these funny little bits of antarctic wildlife.
My world has suddenly become exciting and very new again. Funny what a sunrise can do.