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Scott Base crew enduring near-record breaking Antarctica winter - 10C colder than usual

Newshub logo Newshub 18/06/2021 Holly Henry
Scott Base crew enduring near-record breaking Antarctica winter - 10C colder than usual
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Spare a thought for the hardy crew who are wintering down in Antarctica, experiencing near-record breaking cold temperatures. 

They've come very near to the coldest ever recorded temperature of -89.6C.

While it may have been -16C when Newshub spoke with the Scott Base crew - that's almost balmy conditions compared to the -81.7C recorded on the icy continent this week. 

Antarctica New Zealand science tech Jamie McGaw says he "can't even imagine that extreme cold". 

"I mean, the coldest I've experienced here is like, even in wind chill, is the -60Cs and that is pain, that is any bare skin exposed is like it's on fire. So somewhere where it's -80C? I would not like to be there."

He's luckily 2400km away at Scott Base, but still enduring an unseasonably cold winter.

The continent's average temperature has been 10C colder than usual - all down to a polar vortex. 

a view of a room: Watch: The group doesn't expect to see the sun for two months. © Newshub Watch: The group doesn't expect to see the sun for two months.

NIWA Meteorologist Ben Noll says the polar vortex has "kept all of these cold temperatures locked in over the Antarctic continent, and they haven't been able to really push north - whether it's to Australia, New Zealand or South America - they've been kind of stuck here."

The group of 12 wintering at the base saw their last sunset on the April 24. They don't expect to see a glimpse for two months yet - but to cope with the conditions, they at least have their biggest social event of the winter to look forward to this Monday.

"We haven't really had a day here for weeks and weeks. It's more about marking that midpoint where the sun's no longer getting further away from us, it's starting to come towards us," explains Scott Base Leader Kitty Gibson. 

"It's that turning point in the winter where you're going to start getting a bit of light back again."

Their American neighbours will be donning formal wear under their many layers as they make the trip from nearby McMurdo Station for the milestone. 

Gibson says the event will feature Kiwi food.

"We've got sort of a taste of New Zealand menu going, so we're having Marlborough Sounds salmon and we're having some whitebait and paua fritters and ending up with some pavlova at the end - so our chef's been working all week to get everything ready. "

A bit of light at the end of the tunnel for this team with a long, cold, road ahead.

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