Wednesday, June 23, 2010

22 June, 1911 Midwinter Day

I am somewhat drunk.

The sun reached its maximum depression at about 2:30pm, Greenwich Mean Time. Dinner tonight is therefore the meal which is nearest the sun's critical change of course, and is being observed with all the festivity customary with Christmas at home.

At tea, we broached an enormous Buszard cake courtesy of Cherry.

We hung our Union Jacks and sledging flags from the roof above the table, which was laid with glass and a plentiful supply of champagne bottles. At seven we sat down to an extravagant bill of fare.

We began with our usual seal soup, by common consent the best decoction our cook produces, went on to roast beef with yorkshire puddings, fried potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Then followed a flaming plum pudding and excellent mince pies, and thereafter a dainty savory of anchovy and cod's roe. A wondrous attractive meal even in so far as judged by our simple lights, but with its garnishments a positive feast, for which the table was strewn with dishes of burnt almonds, crystallized fruits, chocolates, and such toothsome kickshaws, whilst the unstinted supply of champagne which accompanied the courses was succeeded by a noble array of liqueur bottles from which choice could be made in the drinking of toasts.

Damn, I like to write long sentences when I've had a glass or two.

I screwed myself up to a little speech. I focused on this being our half-way mark and that people don't realize how soon time passes for preparation. We have come through a summer season and half a winter, and have before us half a winter and a second summer. I especially thanked Bowers and Oates. I said that as regards the future, chance plays a part, but that preparation is key. I thanked them all for putting their shoulders to the wheel and giving me this confidence.

We drank to the Success of the Expedition.

Then everyone was called upon to speak. All were entirely modest and brief; unexpectedly, all had exceedingly kind things to say of me—in fact I was obliged to request the omission of compliments at an early stage. Nevertheless it was gratifying to have a really genuine recognition of my attitude towards the scientific workers of the Expedition and I felt very warmly towards all these kind, good fellows for expressing it.

If good will and happy fellowship count towards success, very surely shall we deserve to succeed.

Everyone got very drunk. Oates was very humorous and insisted on dancing with Anton. Evans P. O. was full of theatrical gossip. Keohane wanted to talk Irish politics.

In the midst of the revelry, Bowers appeared with an enormous Christmas Tree whose branches bore flaming candles, crackers, and little presents for all. The tree was constructed by Bowers of sticks and colored paper.

Whilst revelry was the order of the day within our hut, the elements without seemed desirous of celebrating the occasion with equal emphasis and greater decorum. The eastern sky was massed with swaying auroral light, the most vivid and beautiful display that I have ever seen -- fold on fold the arches and curtains of vibrating luminosity rose and spread across the sky, to slowly fade and yet again spring to glowing life.

It is impossible to witness such a beautiful phenomenon without a sense of awe, and yet this sentiment is not inspired by its brilliancy but rather than its delicacy in light and color, its transparency, and above all by its tremulous evanescence of form. There is no glittering splendor to dazzle the eye; rather the appeal is to the imagination by something wholly spiritual, something instinct with a fluttering ethereal life, serenely confident yet restlessly mobile.

To the little silent group which stood at gaze before such enchantment it seemed profane to return to the mental and physical atmosphere of our house.

Thus, except for the hangovers, we ended the Festival of Midwinter.

We celebrated the birth of a season which for weal or woe must be numbered amongst the greatest in our lives.

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