It hit me today, as everyone is celebrating the beginning of summer, that I’ve just experienced my third summer solstice in a row. Having been in Antarctica in December when I would have seen a winter solstice, I was on the other side of the globe celebrating another summer solstice, sandwiched between two northern hemisphere solstices. It’s kind of trippy to think about, having not been part of a winter solstice in quite some time now.
I left “the ice” four months ago now, which is hard to believe, and I’ve been meaning to do some writing about it ever since. Getting to experience another solstice here in the northern hemisphere is exciting, but nothing compared to the unique nature of my last one. This is what it looked like:
I’m not sure if it’s an annual thing, but at least for this year, an e-mail was sent out to everyone living on station in McMurdo letting us know that there would be a silent dance party happening halfway up Ob Hill around 11:30pm. This time was chosen so that at the height of the dancing, we’d all be shimmying our way into the summer season. As we were in Antarctica, the sun didn’t set, but instead spun round and round the horizon for the entirety of the days surrounding both sides of the solstice.
While ascending the hill at 11:30 in the evening with a dozen friends, it was a unique site, getting to the top of the hill and seeing 20 people silhouetted against the Royal Society Mountain range, silently dancing in the endless daylight. I chuckled a bit to myself, but as soon as I was on the platform and joining in the fun, I slipped easily into the moment. Initially, upon climbing onto the platform, I felt odd. Everyone who knew me or anyone else in the group that I was in smiled or happily danced on by, inviting us to join in. The only sounds coming from the group were the gentle panting from their elevated breathing, and the clacking of their shoes and boots against the wooden platform. But then, upon slipping on my headphones, I joined the fun.
A silent dance party is when everyone purposely shows up to a place to dance, but they all bring their own music which they play in their headphones. This way, no one is listening to the same music and the space is void of lyrics and beats to any onlookers.
I noted how comical it was that when dancing to music that is different than everyone else around you, you almost have to overemphasize the kind of dancing you’re doing, to really accent to everyone else what you’re listening to. Funnily enough, they too seem to do the same thing. The peculiarity of knowing some people were dancing to pop music while others danced to heavy metal or country at the same time was a neat experience.
And so, for an hour or two, I spun around the dance floor with a bunch of my friends and other community mates as the sun stubbornly soared on by, but didn’t even think about heading for the horizon. How did this moment happen, how did I end up at the bottom of the world, below the Antarctic circle in the middle of December? What magic seems to live within this life.
Each solstice seems to be a unique experience from the last, signifying the movement of light in one direction or another and reminding me that time continues to press on. It’s a beautiful thing, really, being able to celebrate more time on this planet. In December 2016, I just happened to find myself in a unique situation where the celebration of life was a little more out of the ordinary and the setting was even more so. At the very lease, here’s to a summer ahead that breaks the 30 degree mark.