Blackout in the deep freeze

Anthony Lister, of Boothtown, is working in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey
Anthony Lister, of Boothtown, is working in Antarctica with the British Antarctic Survey

Living in a snow globe, inaccessible from the outside world and more than 15,000 miles away from home, Halifax’s own snowman is one cool dude.

With penguins and auroras in the night sky to keep him, and 12 others, company during the three-month blackout Anthony Lister, of Boothtown, describes living in the “alien world” as an experience like snow other.

Over seven months ago, Anthony boarded a ship to work in Antarctica as an electrician for the British Antarctic Survey at the Halley 6 Research Station - something he has always wanted to do.

Arriving in Antarctica, after a month-long journey from Cape Town, Anthony was greeted by the picture perfect postcard view that is advertised around the world.

“People spend a lot of money on going to see what I see everyday. Sometimes you begin to take it all for granted and then something will catch your eye and realise how lucky you are.”

Every year around 13 workers wave goodbye to the ship that took them here, their only method of transport back home, and spend the winter months working at the base, isolated from the world trying to survive in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

“We have had to sleep in tents a few times, obviously with insulated sleeping bags to stop frost bite but when you are in your tent it is around -40 degrees inside.

“When you breathe normally, the moisture of your breath turns to snow mid air and falls back onto your face. It is quite surreal. My beard always has snow on it but you need a beard to keep you warmer.”

The station is a state-of-the-art research facility located on the Brunt Ice Shelf, which floats on the Weddell Sea.

Run by the British Antarctic Survey, the workers spend the year researching the Earth’s atmosphere, including sea-level rise, climate change, ozone depletion and polar atmospheric chemistry.

When the days start getting shorter in England and it starts to get dark at 4pm, it feels as if the day passed in the blink of an eye but in Antarctica, Anthony and his workers waved goodbye to the sun for three months in the Sundown ceremony.

Standing there, on the last day of daylight, Anthony watched on as the sun peered over the horizon for about an hour and a half before it disappeared for 105 days. “On the day of the sundown a speech was given by the oldest member of the wintering group before the lowering the flag that flies above Halley. We did not plunge into pitch-darkness immediately.

“The horizon was a sooty red for a few weeks and we can still see the smoky red line across the horizon where the sun should be.

“It is still hard to take in the breathtaking views of the Milky Way during the daytime.

“You don’t expect to get up for a day at work while it’s still dark and see auroras.”