Midwinter celebrations at Macquarie Island
Last Saturday 22 June was midwinters day, the major celebratory occasion on the Antarctic calendar. We celebrate the shortest day of the winter, the pending return of the sun, and being "over the hump" in terms of the traditionally most difficult part of the year for the station community. At this time, we have about six hours of daylight at Macquarie Island, plus a longish dawn and dusk, so it is not the same as the continental stations in this regard. Nevertheless, being able to get out and about is a big part of the experience at Macca, and is vitally important in terms of maintaining high morale and a positive outlook towards our time and place here. The short winter days restrict the ability to do this significantly. More importantly perhaps, the opportunities to enjoy and marvel at the wildlife on Macca is such an amazing part of the Macca experience for all, and during winter things go pretty quiet as far as wildlife is concerned. So we are also looking forward at this time to the pending return of the magnificent wildlife and the commencement of frenetic breeding activities for the seals, penguins and seabirds.
Midwinter preparations had been a busy time in particular for our chef Benny, and an organising group lead by meteorology observer Evelyn who planned and decorated the mess for a Hawaiian luau theme, in keeping with our island paradise setting! The day started with the traditional midwinter swim, which involves a quick and exceptionally brisk dip in the Southern Ocean on both sides of the isthmus at station. This was followed by a reviving spell in the station hot tub. We then sat down to brunch, Benny's first offering for the day.
Keon and others had set up a few holes of golf at the isthmus, so after brunch, a round of golf was enjoyed. Later in the afternoon, we drew gifts from a lucky dip, which we had all been preparing for the last few weeks and were mostly hand made.
In the early evening, we gathered to enjoy Benny's impressive evening meal. Toasts were drunk to Australia, New Zealand (we have three kiwis on station), Macquarie Island, ANARE expeditioners past and present, family, and our community. Our doctor Meg received a somewhat delayed award of a Department of the Environment, Secretary's Australia Day award for her contribution as part of the team at the continental stations last summer which successfully managed a helicopter accident near Davis station.
After dinner, we sat down to a number of entertaining skits with group and individual performances of acts and poems, and then finished a memorable day by enjoying a performance of the current Macca band, 'The Floppy Balloons'.
Next day Sunday 22 June was (unsurprisingly) a relatively quiet day, and we enjoyed a sheep-on-a-spit barbecue in the main store.
Many thanks to Benny for his wonderful efforts in the kitchen and to Evelyn for putting it all together!