This week at the station
This week at Macquarie Island: 5 July 2013
The atmosphere was thick with anticipation for an event worthy of a packed stadium. One of the world’s greatest sporting rivalries was set to take place on the hallowed sands of Macquarie Island. Excitement for the annual midwinter tug–o-war between Australia and New Zealand had been building over the preceding months. The Kiwis had plenty to be confident about having won the event for two years running. They had also recruited very well with two dubious inclusions including Billy, a former top tug-o-war competitor from Wales. The Kiwis had been training hard on the hills of Macca and entered the event as the hottest of favourites.
A composed Aussie team gathered to face off against the might of New Zealand (NZ). Our plan was simple; fight for every inch and never give in. Round one was a brutal contest of pure will from both teams. After what seemed an eternity the Aussies shocked all in attendance with a victory that rocked the New Zealander’s belief. Some soul searching was done before round two and it had appeared order had been restored when the Kiwis won the bout with a textbook display in the art of the tug-o-war.
It was down to the decider, with fatigue setting in, whoever wanted it most was going to take home the prize. Aussie spirit kicked in and the team proved to be an immovable object. The only question was whether the NZ team or the rope would give way first. Fortunately it proved to be the former and so all on the island erupted in scenes of jubilation and disbelief, humbled to have witnessed the greatest upset since the Wallabies beat the All Blacks in the 2003 World Cup semi-final.
The climax of all this is the Midwinter Dinner. The preparations for the big event started for most of us just a few weeks ago when the reality of not having started our midwinter gift sent us into a panic and the workshops around station seemed to be just that bit busier than normal.
However, for the chefs the planning for this day started sometime back in Hobart before they even got on the ship. With menu planning, butter sculptures, table settings, decorations and food preparations it is no wonder that chefs transform into these mystical creatures that seem to never sleep, pop in and out of workshops, helping and checking on the progress of the picture framed menus, various types of props for the table settings, and what flags we have for decorating the mess.
They have their loyal band of supporters that perform each task like worker bees buzzing around the Queen (in this case King Bee) to make sure that his vision of how the food is made and presented are just right.
On Macquarie Island this process was duplicated three times during the day. Firstly there was the setting up the old post office as a breakfast area so the Mess could be free from hordes jostling over the coffee machine, fighting over the last pear in the container so they don’t have to refill it, asking were the porridge is and generally getting in the way.
Then there came the brunch, also in the post office, once cleaned up after the breakfast. Great time is taken over the placement, orientation and preparation of the various croissants, pastries, blueberry pancakes, fruit compote, Bircher muesli and egg Florentine so most of just stood and looked over the spread not wanting to be the first to disturb the visual effect.
Pre-dinner drinks and canapés replaced the brunch setting and (again) huge time and effort had gone into the presentation. But above all, there was the incredible tastes of various assortment of dishes that spanned the globe - starting with Thai duck spring rolls, Russian blini cakes, truffle polenta with Swiss cheese, assorted sushi, crumbed Camembert with port relish, three cheese risotto balls with garlic aioli, caramelised pear, blue cheese on toasted brioche, grilled flat head with babaganoush, yoghurt dips and oils all washed down with good wine and champagne.
You would think after all that there would be few at the main dinner that evening, but all attended in their best attire, admiring the setting once again, toasting friends, loved ones and friends that are no longer with us. We then feasted on the endless, beautifully prepared food with thanks given to Tony Mortimer and his band of worker bees.
The dishes were cleared from a delectable midwinter feast and no sooner had that been done than the tradies moved in and a pre-fabricated stage was put together for the continuation of the night’s entertainment. Preparations were being made behind the screen and suddenly out walked… Darth Vader. Darth, played by Senior Comms Tech Greg Bird, warmed the crowd with a recital of Ronnie Corbett’s ‘Brindecella’ and then proceeded with an introductory narration for Cinderella, the Macquarie Island version, 2013.
A little more rustling and jostling behind the screen followed and then some badly timed music intros saw the arrival of players for Scene 1...
The ugly sisters winning tickets to the Macquarie Island Ball. The evil stepmother (played by Billy the Welshman) exerted her domination over the scene and Cinderella was left in no doubt as to her position in life – even though not only did she happen to be significantly bigger than her evil stepmother, in this case she also had a bigger beard.The ugly sisters celebrated their good fortune and left the stage with the anticipation of meeting the Prince ‘of Australia’ at the Macca Ball.
Scene 2 was a touching tribute to the All Aussie Adventurer – ‘Russell Coigt’. Coigty – played by MIPEP hunter Mike Fawcett, gave the touring Cinderella clan, and the audience, a fairly inaccurate synoposis of the island’s history at which time a brief altercation with the Ranger (played by the Ranger himself) ensued. After the Ranger was discreetly dealt with by Russell the troop moved on to prepare for the ball itself.
The ugly sisters got themselves glamorous for the ball in the next scene and taunted Cinderella until the Fairy Safety Officer appeared, granting her a couple of wishes and a ticket to the ball – after handing out the appropriate Job Hazard Analysis forms for such an event.
The ball scene was another momentous example of amateur theatrics with all the idiosyncrasies of a play such as this. The head of the stage-hand was visible for most of the play, poking through a gap in the stage curtains to get a better view. The sound and lighting technician dashed between the light switches on the wall and the computer running the music and sound effects and timed the placement of musical exerts with almost talented imperfection.
The actors ran riot with the script and the heavy handed makeup and costume application left the crowd dazzled. The ball scene saw the addition of some new moves to the world of dance and also the entrance of Darth Vader at the Ball buffet. After some combative words with the Ball’s head of catering ‘Mr Stephens’ – as inspired by Eddie Izzard, the Prince struck up a dance with Cinderella that eventually left her shoeless.
Scene 4 was an extraordinary example of acting – we think - carried out by station doctor Clive playing himself as the ‘Waste Minimisation Officer’. Clive’s scene was to sort the rubbish after the ball and on the discovery of Cinderella’s Ashley boot in the wrong rubbish bin he was suddenly in an amorous trance with the inanimate object with the dulcet tones of Barry White playing loudly in the background.
The Prince (played by MIPEP dog handler Nancye Williams) was present at this point – mourning the loss of his new found love. He grasped the shoe from the clutches of Clive, before setting off on a journey through the night to find his princess, for whom the shoe would fit.
The family was discovered by the Prince and the shoe did fit – not Cinderella but the evil stepmother, who swept the Prince up and whisked him away before he could back out on the deal. Next Russell and the Ranger arrived on the scene and requested the company of the evil stepsisters to continue their tour of the island.
Alas, Cinderella, who had turned into a penguin at this stage after not getting home from the ball before 12pm, was left in the corner by herself. That is until… Jeff Vader walked in. Only true love could break the spell and set Cinderella free again and Vader achieved this with a stirring lip-sync of Simply Red’s ‘If you don’t know me by now’ – to which the rest of the audience and those involved joined in on the stage.
Thanks to all those involved for a memorable event and the rest of station who made up the crowd.