Sand and Stars

My Dark Sky Site

The star marks my site: 26°52′00″S 22°03′00″E

There’s nothing bigger or darker or more beautiful than the sky at night in the Kalahari.

I can tick all the “Bortle Class 1 Sky” boxes… no light pollution at all… my horizons so utterly dark that stars are visible right to the horizons… the little bushes around me are visible only as silhouettes… airglow is readily apparent… naked eye stars are almost dizzying in their numbers… and most astounding of all, the Milky Way is a dazzling river of starlight arching up from horizon to horizon, and the Scorpius and Sagittarius region directly overhead casts my hands’ shadow onto the pages of my Uranometria… a dim, diffuse shadow, but a shadow nonetheless.

The only word I can come up with for the darkness is comprehensive… when I look forward and not up I can see nothing; nothing at all, it’s as if I am peering into a vast hole in reality. It makes me feel like I am the only person left on Earth. It would be eerie if I didn’t love the night so much. (And anyway, how much looking forward is one going to do when the entire night sky is beckoning?)

I live under wonderful night skies.

As Mr Bortle himself eloquently put it about his skies, “This is an observer’s Nirvana!”

The sunsets are impossibly beautiful – and then the stars come out – first one, then another, then hundreds, then thousands, then the entire Milky Way, all gleaming in the steady and transparent sky.

And at the end of night, at the first glow of the approaching sunrise, the stars near the eastern horizon melt away ahead of it, as though the darkness itself were dissolving.

The silence at night here is like no other silence I’ve ever experienced. I know that I am sitting surrounded by 2.5 millions square kilometers of Kalahari that is full of an abundance of wildlife… yet most nights the only sound I can hear is the sound of my blood murmuring in my ears like a far sea. Periodically this immense silence is broken by the excited yelping cries of bat-eared foxes or the lovely sound of an owl… but for the most part it is infinite space-deep silence. Absolute bliss.

During the day my dark sky place lies under a blue sky so clear it looks as if the air has been filtered through crystal. The air is full of birdsong. And almost always, up there somewhere riding the thermals on their great wings, you can see vultures circling.

I am in the happiest place I can imagine being in.