“Astronomical darkness”, I learned yesterday, sets in after the Sun has descended 18 degrees below the horizon, and none of the atmosphere above is illuminated by sunlight. Looking for the furthermost southern hemisphere locations where astronomical darkness was obtainable, with the Earth’s axis being tilted at 23.4° to the ecliptic, I figured they would lie along the latitude (90 – 23.4 -18) or 48.6° S.
Searching Google Maps, I found two places. One was in the far south of South America, near Tierra del Fuego. And the other was a tiny island in the southern Indian ocean: the Île du Roland. This island lay slightly northwest of a bunch of islands known as the Kerguelen or Desolation islands. These were really just one island, an extinct volcano with a glacier, with a lot of small islands scattered around it.
Kerguelen’s climate is oceanic, cold and extremely windswept.
The average annual temperature is 4.9 °C (40.8 °F) with an annual range of around 6 °C (11 °F). The warmest months of the year include January and February, with average temperatures between 7.8 and 8.2 °C (46.0 and 46.8 °F).The coldest month of the year is August with an average temperature of 2.1 °C (35.8 °F). Annual high temperatures rarely surpass 20 °C (68 °F), while temperatures in winter have never been recorded below −10 °C (14 °F) at sea level.
The west coast receives almost continuous wind at an average speed of 35 km/h (22 mph), due to the islands’ location in between the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties. Wind speeds of 150 km/h (93 mph) are common and can even reach 200 km/h (120 mph).
Waves up to 12–15 m (39–49 ft) high are common, but there are many sheltered places where ships can dock.
Ever since Deborah Arnott wrote that “smokers will be exiled to the outdoors”, I’ve been looking for somewhere to return the favour to the antismokers.
Today I think I’ve found it at last: Desolation Island.
I think they’ll love it. Lots and lots of fresh air. Lots and lots of healthy exercise trying to keep warm or stand upright. And not a smoker for a thousand km in all directions. And no need for No Smoking signs, since it’s probably physically impossible for anyone to smoke in 150 km/hr winds.
They’d have free run of the whole island. And they could ban anything they wanted to. Smoking. Alcohol. Sugar. Salt. Fat. Dancing. Fun.
And they could live wherever they liked, although many would probably want to be up near the glacier.
And they could live in whatever houses they liked. Although I imagine most of them would prefer something along the lines of just a roof with a couple of walls – much like smoking shelters.
I’m thinking of setting up a travel agency to sell tickets there. I think they’d sell like hot cakes. They’ll be queueing in long lines to buy them.
They’d all be one-way tickets of course, with guaranteed lifetime residency thrown in for free. By boat, because there’s no airport on Desolation Island. There isn’t really a port either. The monthly supply ship from Johannesburg or Perth would drop them off in a small dinghy, and let them to row themselves to shore.
And the ad pitch would be something like: “Year round 5° C! Continuous winds up to 150 km/hr! 15 metre waves! Central island glacier! No unsightly trees! Astronomical darkness! Isn’t Desolation Island your idea of a smoke-free paradise? Book now for free lifetime residency while tickets last!”
How could they resist an offer like that?