This week at Macquarie Island: 29 June 2018

This week we report our Macca Midwinter's celebrations on the island: our swim, spa, sumptuous dinner, entertainment and games.

Macca Midwinter

Our Midwinter celebrations began as soon as we were up with the raising of the flags – the following photos are but a snippet of the days activities and don't do it justice. You hopefully get a sense of the community effort that goes in to making it such a great day.

The Australian, New Zealand, Union Jack and ANARE flags flying on a sunny  clear (briefly) Midwinter's Day on Macquarie Island
Flags flying on a sunny clear (briefly) Midwinters Day on Macca
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A programme listing the Midwinters Day activities
Our Midwinter's Day programme
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A formal photograph of the 71st ANARE - the current expeditioners on Macquarie Island
Dressed ready for our Midwinters Dinner - the 71st ANARE
(Photo: Richard Youd)
A met balloon is released behibd the Macca noticeboard which states Happy Midwinters
Happy Midwinters starts with a balloon release
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
The formal photo setting degenerates into the usual shenanigans
Group photos inevitably end up like this
(Photo: Richard Youd)

Macca Coast to Coast

What better way to start off the Midwinter’s celebrations than to go for a swim in the chilly Southern Ocean? Ha, I know an even better way to celebrate – to go for TWO swims in the chilly Southern Ocean! 

The tradition down here on Macca is to go for a dip on both the east and west coasts of the island. So on Thursday morning we had our team out there shivering away on the isthmus, grimacing and ready to go brace the cold water on the west side first. We were out in the blustery wind, clad only in our bathers… and boots, because those rocks sure can get slippery with all that kelp. Fortunately, the isthmus is quite narrow, so it’s not such a long run to jump in on both sides… but when you’re racing from one side to the other in the cold breeze, soaking wet wearing only your soggy bathers, well then it seems like a very long distance!

Before we went near the water that morning we had a lookout stationed up at the Ham Shack for an hour, to check that there were no large marine mammals in the area, particularly orcas. Ali and Norbert had kindly opted to remain on lookout while the rest of us swam (they wanted to stay warm and dry, not like the rest of us fools!!). As safety is always our first priority, our doctor Cathryn had earlier briefed us all on the medical risks of swimming in the cold and had medical equipment on standby. Our ranger Chris had found a spot on both sides that was clear of wildlife for us to swim in, and he was suited up in a dry suit, with a lifebuoy and throw rope ready for rescue in case anyone got into difficulty. After the rest of us had charged in and out of both cold sides, Rich tag-teamed with Chris as the lifeguard, so that Chris and Cathryn could also go in for a quick dip.

We were very lucky with the weather that day, the sun actually came out briefly (a rarity down here on Macca!!!). But I think these pictures are a wee bit misleading – for although it may look like a warm sunny day, I can assure you that our teeth were chattering as we grinned!! It sure was cold when we dunked our heads under that water! But after the great nippy dip we all raced straight over to defrost in the welcoming warm waters of the spa.

It was a great start to a fantastic Midwinter’s celebration.

Expeditioners at Macca heading into the surf for the Midwinter swim
The swimmers head for the chilly breakers
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A young elephant seal joins in the Midwinter swim - Ranger Chris and Doctor Cathryn enjoy the sun with him
An inquisitive local comes to see what all the fuss is about
(Photo: Richard Youd)

Midwinter Dinner

Our formal proceedings began as all Midwinter's Dinners should, with bubbles and champagne!

The menu says it all – punctuated with the Station Leader's address, readings, a poem written by our very own Peter and of course toasts aplenty – especially to absent friends and family.

The pictures tell it all…

Front Cover of our Midwinter Dinner Menu
Front Cover of our Midwinter Dinner Menu
(Photo: Ali Dean)
Our Midwinter's menu - each dish created by Annette our Chef
Our Midwinter's menu - each delicious dish created by Annette our Chef
(Photo: Ali Dean)
Formal proceedings begin with the Station Leaders address
Formal proceedings begin with the Station Leaders address
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Helping in the kitchen to plate up the Midwinter Dinner
Many hands required to bring it all together - Rich and Jez…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A plate full of canapes colourfully decorated
Colourful canapes to start
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A toast by Doctor Cathryn to the other AAD stations - To Davis, Casey and Mawson!
Cathryn makes the toast to the other AAD stations - To Davis,…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)

Macca Variety Show

After our sumptuous gourmet feast we all settled in for an evening of Midwinter entertainment.

First up I punished the crowd with a bumbling learner’s piano performance of two songs about Macca weather – ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. Fortunately, I had the excellent vocals of Norbert singing along to accompany me and hide the sound of me thrashing away on the keyboard!

Next, we were treated to a spectacular theatre performance of ‘Cinderfella’, a completely original play written, produced and directed by Cathryn. It starred Jez as Cinderfella, the penniless, young, vegetarian PhD student; Annette as the evil, carnivorous Chef; Vicki and Angus as the ugly Met sisters; Norbert as the Fairy Comms-Tech and Rich as the Prince. It was set in the faraway magical kingdom of Macquarie Island and was a hoot! I don’t want to give away the ending… but true love reigned supreme!!

We also got treated to a very impressive video of our auroras and spectacular night skies made by Angus and an entertaining performance of the Banjo Paterson poem ‘A Bush Christening’ by our ranger Chris (hilariously amended to be politically correct and to meet health and safety regimes!!).

We finished off the night with some fabulous karaoke (well, three of us thought it was fabulous – everyone else was horrified by our atrocious singing!!) and then we all settled in for the final Midwinter’s late night tradition – watching the science fiction horror film ‘The Thing’ set in Antarctica (some traditions tend to put people to sleep!!)

Danielle McCarthy

Danielle playing the electric piano with Norbert singing in the flag lined mess at Macca for Midwinter 2018
Danielle playing piano with Norbert singing to start our Midwinter evening entertainment
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Play narrator Cathryn with ugly Met sisters Angus and Vicki, evil carnivorous Chef Annette and Prince Richard in the mess at Macca
Play narrator Cathryn with ugly Met sisters Angus and Vicki, evil carnivorous…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Fairy Comms-Tech Norbert with Cinderfella Jez during the Midwinter performance of Cinderfella at Macca Midwinter 2018
Fairy Comms-Tech Norbert with Cinderfella Jez
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
The 2018 Midwinter play at Macca showoing the final scene - Cinderfella and the Prince
The Happy Couple - Cinderfella and the Prince
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Chris performing the Banjo Patterson poem A Bush Christening with assistant Angus during the Macca Midwinter Variety show
Chris performing the Banjo Patterson poem A Bush Christening with assistant Angus…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)

Bubbly Spa and Green Sponge Games

Our plumber Greg had topped up and treated our “emergency overflow water storage” in anticipation of our morning Midwinter swim, so after the hurried and chilly dash between coasts we all beat a hasty retreat to the hot water.

It’s a crowded little space when most of the station is jammed in at once, so it’s a good thing we’re all good friends! Of course the water displacement caused by 12 reheating bodies meant that we lost a fair bit of water out of the storage, but a record breaking 46mm of rainfall on Saturday has topped us right back up.

That same rainy Saturday saw us celebrating the (slow) return of the sun with the inaugural Green Sponge Toilet Roll Games. Toilet rolls are the most abundant (and reusable post-games) natural resource available on Macquarie Island, so we used them to facilitate a team based competition with events including:

  • In The Cage – competitors had six chances to toss toilet rolls into a 10 metre distant cage pallet, one point per sunk roll with a maximum score of three per competitor. Teams with the highest score in this round were awarded points towards the overall competition. Added complexity (and humour) by allowing team mates one touch to redirect errant toilet rolls en route.
  • Macca Soccer – a knockout round, involving kicking toilet rolls through distant goal posts. Successful kicks advanced to the next round, with narrower posts.
  • Macca Skittles – bowling for toilet roll skittles held together with toilet brushes (unused) using a basketball.
  • Macca Skyscrapers – and of course, seeing which team could build the tallest tower of rolls. Successful towers had to stand unaided for four minutes judging. One team did manage to make a tower reach the roof but it collapsed before being measured, and in final judging the whole competition deteriorated into a game of sabotage.

The final standings put the mighty team of “Rats” in first place, rewarding them the finest green sponges that Macca has to offer and a box of Roses chocolates. The “Cats” came in hot on their heels in second, “Bunnies” in third and my poor “Wekas” covered the rear in fourth place.

There was some vocalisation during the event for the next Green Sponge Games to adopt a World Cup inspired video referee, as the usually faultless morals of our expeditioners were occasionally misplaced during the excitement of the game, but all in all the first holding of the GSG was a resounding success that we are sure will be repeated next season.

Go Wekas!

Angus Cummings


The twelve expeditioners that took part in the Midwinter swim warming themselves in the Macca al fresco spa
Twelve swimmers warming in the Macca al fresco spa
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A toilet roll tower constructed in one of the Macca Green Sponge games held over Midwinter
Peter tries unsuccessfully to stop his teams sky scraper from toppling
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
toilet rolls set up as skittles - one of the games in the Green Sponge Games held at Macca over Midwinter
Macca toilet roll skittles in the mess
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Cathryn throwing a toilet roll into a cage pallet during the Green Sponge Games on Macca
Cathryn shows winning technique
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Rich shooting the winning goal in our soccer penalty shoot out
The winning goal - so fast he's a blur
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Tim, Rich and Annette - the Rats - the team that won the Green Sponge Games
The victorious 'Rats'
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Team Bunny - Danielle, Jez and Peter - the Green Sponge Games runners-up
The Bunnies will be back!
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)