Snowstorms on January the twelfth

A great sleepiness came over Frodo; he felt himself sinking fast into a warm and hazy dream. He thought a fire was heating his toes, and out of the shadows on the other side of the hearth he heard Bilbo’s voice speaking. I don’t think much of your diary, he said. Snowstorms on January the twelfth: there was no need to come back to report that!

But I wanted rest and sleep, Bilbo, Frodo answered with an effort…

-Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book II

We are enjoying good conditions here in southeastern Wisconsin for the Aurora Borealis, but we are also “enjoying” pretty extensive cloud cover, so… nothing to report on that front. There has intermittently been some decent stargazing, with a very bright Jupiter and the Great Orion Nebula to be seen. The cloud cover came with a dramatic increase in temperature, leading to rainfall that instantly became sheets of treacherous ice covering the sidewalk.

Speaking of ice, I’ve been enjoying the reports from the 2013 Australasian Antarctic Expedition by the BBC World Service podcast Discovery; yes, the one that got stuck and had to be helicoptered out. The expedition started on the hundredth anniversary of another Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Douglas Mawson. His account, The Home of the Blizzard, is available from Project Gutenberg; in it you will find the hair-raising narrative of how Mawson, sole survivor of a disastrous trek, had to claw his way out of a crevasse while all his skin was coming off due to hypervitaminosis A and make his way back to the expedition’s base just to see the ship departing for New Zealand for the winter, and then spend an Antarctic winter in a tiny cabin with several other people. Who not only did not kill or maim one another, but got on fine, diverting themselves with cooking, printing a newspaper, and high-stakes gambling for chocolate.

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