Midwinter is the premiere celebration in Antarctica, and here at Casey we didn’t skimp. Celebrations are a tradition from the early days of Antarctic exploration - this year is the centenary of the first Australian led Antarctic Expedition, Sir Douglas Mawson's epic Australasian Antarctic Expedition to Commonwealth Bay (noting that we have a more comfortable existence now than explorers in those days!). Just like all those years ago, the solstice is the shortest day of the year and marks the occasion where expeditioners can look forward to the days gradually getting longer over the coming months. As such, our midwinter was a day jam packed with activities.
Casey received invitations from stations all over the continent to attend their midwinter celebrations, but we elected to stay home. We invited family and friends to join us, but it seems none were able to make it and we received some outrageous excuses, including bogged helicopters and a balloon chair that was malfunctioning in inclement weather – some did accept our invitation and organised orca and submarine transport, but even after waiting at the ice edge for hours, there was no sign of our guests. Despite this, we battled on and managed to enjoy ourselves anyway…
Up at dawn (around 10am) for a midwinter swim, the temperature reaching −28 degrees, which is perfect for a refreshing dip! Thanks to Benton (and others who helped) for preparing the hole in the ice… 12 out of 16 people went for a swim, with just four wise expeditioners holding themselves back. You could measure the average time spent in the water in milliseconds – people were almost able to leap out of the hole unassisted to reach the warmth of the nearby hut and get changed. There were a few hardy souls who lingered on the mats long enough to get a few post swim push-ups in (also known as showing off).
With the swim out of the way, we moved on to a champagne breakfast and a video hook up with the AAD in Kingston and the other Australian stations. Once we were satisfied that celebrations were progressing at the other stations and that at least a couple of AAD staff had braved the Tasmanian waters for a midwinter swim in Kingston, we had a few hours to ourselves to prepare for cocktails and canapés. Benton stepped in for the night as mixologist (think he has missed his calling as he did such a fine job of it). We had oysters, smoked salmon, green pea and sundried tomato, smoked chicken and tofu puff canapés all washed down with some tasty cocktail creations deftly prepared by Benton.
Dinner followed, and what a feast that Rocket put on – a seven course degustation! With crayfish, scallops, prawns, quail, duck, kangaroo, pork belly, tempeh and loads of vegies followed up by berry compote, as well as hazelnut chocolate tart… still drooling over it! And, no we couldn't fit it all in, but we tried.
After dinner we exchanged presents - we have spent nights and weekends over the last couple of months making gifts for each other. We are lucky to have such talented people – the gifts were awesome, with skill and imagination shining through. Later on our band the ‘Iceholes’ entertained and delighted through the evening and into the wee small hours.
A great day, a great night and smiles all around… not much else happening here this week. We are all worn out!