This week at the station

This week at Davis: 28 June 2013

The midwinter swim – the Doc’s reflections on the event

What possess people to jump into sub-freezing sea water?

What perverse logic it is to welcome the sun god back in this way? It spits in the face of self preservation and common sense, but I love the bravado that says “Come on big boy, is that your best shot?” Of course it isn’t. He is just humouring us as we mark the passing of the solstice.

So, what is required to pull this feat off?

Firstly, timing: the weather gods must smile on you.  As usual, these gods take great delight in trying to foil best laid plans, kind of like booking tickets to the cricket well in advance and having the play washed out on that particular day due to a freak sleet storm in the middle of summer. To thwart the efforts of the weather gods, holding the swim on the day before midwinter at Davis was a master stroke of genius. Ha! Bet they never saw that one coming.

Secondly, you need dedicated swimming hole craftsmen: our team of ice carvers, who are willing and able to play with their Tonka trucks and tools for many hours testing Antarctic conditions, are just the thing for this. Well done! They sculptured a pool of Olympic proportions in a matter of hours, from the dark of night to, well, the dark of night. Such a superb amenity was constructed that it received a visit and blessing from the local Weddell landlord. The last seal seen here was on the 30th April so no higher compliment can be paid.

Naturally, all health and safety precautions were on hand to facilitate resuscitation of the frozen ones if necessary: mobile hot bath, RIMit van with heat and of course, me, the Doc. Other ancillaries included palm tree, galleon for the pool time and lots of onlookers. Costumes varied from the traditional Tony Abbot budgie smugglers, to 'Ninja Comms' and a 'birthday suit'. Our first contestant was Pat (aka Turbo), who took the honours being his birthday!

Again our appreciation must go out to the movers and shakers that made this event memorable.  A great time was had by all, just before the winds picked up and the snow began to fall...

Doc Mal

Starting to cut the ice hole for the swim
Starting to cut the hole
(Photo: Rich Y)
Final adjustments to open the ice hole for the swim
Final adjustments to the open hole
(Photo: Rich Y)
A Weddell seal pokes its head up through the swimming hole
Weddell seal checks out the swim hole
(Photo: Rich Y)
The Davis sea baths sign and palm tree cut out
Sea baths, midwinter
(Photo: Rich Y)
The ice hole with ladder setup and the surface cleared of ice for the swim
The swim hole is open for business
(Photo: Rich Y)
Pat D is the first one in the water as it is his birthday
Birthday boy Pat takes the honours
(Photo: Rich Y)
A big splash as another swimmer jumps in the icy water
Another one takes a dive
(Photo: Gavin HT)
Mid-winter swimmers all huddle in the temporary warm bath to watch and support the other swimmers going in
Swim crew thawing in the warm bath
(Photo: Mal V)

A toast my friends!

After a flurry of activity in the kitchen and dining room in the afternoon to get everything ready for the main event of the day, it was time adjourn to Nina’s as our two volunteer cocktail party hosts, Rich and Paul, started making up some rather colourful potions (all enjoyed in moderation, of course!). The pair had been resourced with some fresh plateau ice, bucket of mint from hydroponics and other ingredients donated by the crew. There were some very interesting iridescent green drinks in martini glasses, alongside layered red and blue ones and the more traditional mixes for all to try. In honour of the station’s adopted mascot this year – the 'Blue Koala' (long story...), the boys were asked to create a drink suitable for the name. They certainly didn’t disappoint!  Charged with glasses in hand, the self appointed MC for the hour, Tim K, took the floor and made the first of the toasts for the evening. – “To the 66th ANARE! Happy midwinter!”  Nice one.

Bob & Mal

A plate of canapés surrounded by cocktails in martini glasses
Canapés and cocktails
(Photo: Jeff R)
Four winterers, Nick, Aaron, Pat and Keith posing with the cocktails
Four amigos
(Photo: Jeff R)
The winter crew gathers at Ninas for the pre-dinner drinks and nibbles
Cocktails and canapés at Nina's
(Photo: Bob S)
Doc Mal and Dr Bob with a sneak in between by Rich at Ninas
The two docs and a waiter
(Photo: Gavin HT)
Rich creating a cocktail - made to order
Cocktail creator Rich
(Photo: Gavin HT)
Mark K holding up a blue drink now called the Blue Koala
The 'Blue Koala'
(Photo: Gavin HT)

Ah, dinner and a show!

Having enjoyed the pre-dinner canapés, cocktails and toasting (to one and all), the crew were called to make the pilgrimage to the dining table for the continuance of the incredible eight course meal created by our resident culinary genius, Rocket. The table layout was superb, with the centrepiece being a collection of hand crafted ice axes every winterer had spent many weekends working on over the last few months. Picking up our axes and moving to our chairs, the dinner commenced in earnest. Images were being sent back to the outside world via our webcam, and it didn’t take too long before we received an image from back home of a midwinter party with our dinner up on the big screen! 

The fine dining was replete with good cheer, great company and lively banter. As the evening matured toward the eleventh hour, the band warming up drew the crowd to the live entertainment end of festivities. With half of the crew being musicians, it was a great to see many swapping instruments, singing and adding to the enjoyment as all were encouraged to ‘have a go!’. It really was ‘dinner & a show’ to remember.

Bob & Mal

The midwinter table is set for 17 with the flags at the end
Midwinter table set to go
(Photo: Gavin HT)
Midwinter dinner menu detailing eight courses
Midwinter menu
(Photo: Jeff R)
Wheel in the centre of the table made up from handmade wood-brass ice axes
Ice axe centrepiece
(Photo: Rich Y)
The winter crew posing in front of the webcam to wish all a happy mid-winter
The crew posing for the webcam
(Photo: Gavin HT)
Entree is served with the place name ice axe in the background
A fine dining affair
(Photo: Jeff R)
Delicious rich dark chocolate tart for dessert
Rocket chocolate tart
(Photo: Rich Y)
The band started playing and everyone was welcome to join in - 7 on stage
Open mic session
(Photo: Rich Y)
Musicians swap over instruments for a bit of blues and harmonica
Time to swap instruments
(Photo: Gavin HT)
Chef Rocket playing guitar and singing to relax after all the hard work in the kitchen
Rocket relaxing after a great dinner
(Photo: Gavin HT)

Davis midwinter greeting to all!

Finally, from all of us wintering here at Davis, we wish you all a very Happy midwinter! May the rest of the year bring you further wonders and enjoyment as we look toward the 2013-14 summer.

The Davis Winter Crew 2013

The 17 wintering expeditioners lined up on a blizzard tail with mid-winter greetings and best wishes for 2013 to all
Davis 2013 greeting
(Photo: Gavin HT)