Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/34

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nearest land; our horizon was everywhere lined by the towering heights of icebergs which were separated by level fields of sea-ice.

Over this sheen of hard ice and soft snow there rested a haze of ice crystals which was curiously suspended in the air. As the sun sank through this haze it lost its luminous character, and before it vanished into its bed of snow it appeared as a great, distorted, rayless ball of crimson. The play of light in this icy haze is a joy experienced in no other part of the globe. Over the departing sun there remained a band of orange running into rose at the sky line and into gold at its upper edge. At the same time there rose in the east an arc of dark purple-blue, edged with orange. This is the twilight curve which is here strikingly noticeable. As the purple of twilight ascended towards the zenith, the snow westward had a delicate lilac hue, and eastward there was a bright purple-blue over everything, which finally deepened into a gobelin-blue.

At about eight o'clock the Southern Cross was clearly visible over the masts. The purple twilight curve was absorbed into the homogeneous blue of the, sky. At the zenith there were a few waves of light which had the appearance of high cirrus clouds. These darted across the heavens with lightning swiftness, fading, vanishing and reappearing with augmented force each time, until at ten o'clock the phenomenon settled into a waving, luminous arc with a fringe, causing it to look like a curtain hanging low on the southern sky. Still later the fringe work gave place to a steady luminous arc, whose highest altitude was about 30°.

The evening of the 14th was also clear and calm. There was a fascinating sunset, followed by a long purple twilight. The temperature had fallen to - 20 C. The glassy character of the air, the paleness of the sky and the absence of wind were to us indications of a very cold night. Such nights are always favorable to auroral displays, and we were early on a lookout for them. At about nine o'clock there appeared a bank of luminous fog in the southwest. Soon after, there rose an arc over this which was at first imperfect. Now the eastern portion was illuminated, then the western portion, and, again, only a fragment of the center was visible. So rapid were these changes that we found ourselves unable to record the fleeting forms.

Everybody was on deck or pacing the ice about the 'Belgica,' making notes and sketches of the phenomenon. The scene was such as would delight the heart of any lover of nature. The good old 'Belgica,' the home of the only speck of human life within the icy under-surface of the globe, was buried in a bed of snow which so completely covered her body that only the rigging projected. Even the masts and the ropes were encased in a heavy plating of hoar-frost and hard ice, which glittered like gems in the silvery light of the