An Unusually Rare Sunset


Kay H.


Seaview gently surfaces and rocks on the waves of a beautiful aquamarine sea.


“Admiral I’m glad you decided to surface for a few minutes even if the air is cold and frigid after spending  the last 2 weeks under the polar ice caps.”  Lee says with a sigh.


Chip says, “Are you sure Lee?  I thought that you hated the frigidly cold weather,”


“Yes Chip, but I think that the crew would like to enjoy a few minutes of fresh air and this is a breath taking view. Admiral I have never seen this type of sunset, is it unusual? 


“Yes, Lee this rare cloud formation is caused by some of the coldest temperatures on Earth. The clouds only occur at high polar latitudes in winter, requiring temperatures less than minus 176 Fahrenheit. You have to be in the right part of the world in winter, and have the sun just below your horizon to see them. This is spectacular images of the nacreous clouds, also known as polar stratospheric clouds.”



Later after the Seaview has dived and everyone had removed their Artic gear.  Lee, Chip, Jamie and the Admiral settled in the nose with hot chocolate and coffee.



“Admiral what actually caused the clouds to appear shaped like an airborne mother-of-pearl shell?”


“Well Lee the clouds are produced when fading light at sunset passes through water-ice crystals blown along a strong jet of stratospheric air more than six miles above the ground.  These clouds are seldom seen, but are occasionally produced by air passing over polar mountains.”


“Lee now aren’t you glad that we surfaced, even though you hate artic weather?” ’asked Chip. 


Lee laughs. “Yes Chip especially since it not often that we have a chance to observe a breathtakingly rare phenomena.”






This story was inspired by a photo and AP story from HOBART, Australia last week.


Thanks to Sue for the  suggestions and changes she made, they were greatly appreciated.



Renae Baker / Australian Antarctica Division via Reuters Rare mother-of-pearl colored clouds caused by extreme weather conditions are seen above Australia's meteorological base in Antarctica, July 25.