Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/39

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29
THE AURORA AUSTRALIS.

rays which played over the main are; above there were also occasional fragments of an arc and a prolongation of horizontal rays. This display continued until about three o'clock in the morning.

The color of this aurora, as of all those which preceded and followed, with but one exception, was a faint flesh color edged with a pale greenish-yellow. We saw no prismatic colors. The exception was a fragment of an arc in the southeast early in the evening of April 10. This was for a few moments noticeably green, but it quickly faded and vanished. Later in the evening it reappeared in the same form and place, but the color was nearly white.

In the latter part of April we saw a few auroras, especially after storms, on clear nights, but instead of increasing in number and in brilliancy, which we expected, as the veil of winter darkness was spread over us, they diminished steadily as the long night advanced. On May 17 we saw the autumnal sun for the last time. Its cold, distorted and seemingly wrinkled face lingered for a few moments on the northern ice and then sank into the frozen sea, from which it did not ascend for about seventy days. It is curious that we must say about seventy days, but this uncertainty is due to the fact that for several days before sunset the sky was obscured by storm clouds, and our constant drift with the pack-ice made our latitude uncertain.

During this long night auroras were but rarely seen, but the weather was clearer and steadier than before and after. On May 21 and 22 there were faint auroral bands in the south, on the 20th there was a feeble arc in the southeast, and on the 29th there was a feeble double arc. On the 22d, 23d and 24th of June there was a similar phenomenon in the same position, and this curiously enough reappeared one month later, in July, on the same dates. The long antarctic night, then, as experienced by the observers of the 'Belgica' was not apparently lighted by the Aurora Australis.

During August we saw but one bright display, which was a double arc, on the 20th, for most of the month was so stormy that the clear sky was seldom visible. The last week in August, however, was a remarkable period of clear weather. Bright sunlight, charming moonlight and fascinating halos were among our delights in these life-giving days of the south polar spring. The sea of ice was made doubly interesting by the increasing number of penguins and seals, crying and grunting and making manifest in various ways the contentment and satisfaction of the new sunny splendor of their usually cold and cheerless abodes. From the 'Belgica' the budding passions of a new life were bursting forth; songs and laughter and a noisy commotion were audible and visible during the evening hours.

The moon often so illuminated the skies that it was difficult to distinguish between ordinary cirrus clouds and bands of auroras. On