Icy celebration of winter solstice

Icy celebration of winter solstice

Video transcript

>> Jenny Wressell – Mawson Station Leader:

Hi, I’m Jenny, the station leader at Mawson station in Antarctica. Today we are celebrating midwinter day or winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun last set at Mawson on the nineteenth of June and it will rise again on the twenty-ninth of June. An Antarctic tradition is the midwinter swim. Today’s low was minus 29.3 degrees and the water is around minus 1.8 degrees.

Midwinter is an important day for the station – it means the return of longer days and more sunshine. There are currently 14 people at Mawson station and it’s an amazing experience to be living in such an extreme environment, but at this time of year we also miss our family and friends at home. 

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Expeditioners use a chainsaw to cut into the sea ice at Mawson station in preparation for their midwinter swim
Expeditioners use a chainsaw to cut into the sea ice at Mawson station in preparation for their midwinter swim (Photo: Shane Ness)
Mawson station prepares for the Midwinter swimMawson expeditioner, Shane Ness, at the ‘Mawson Sea Baths’Mawson expeditioner, Shane Ness takes a dipMawson expeditioner, Chris Hill, plunges into the icy waterActing Director Rob Wooding lays a wreath Memorial Rock at Kingston headquarters in memory of Antarctic personnel who have lost their lives on the icy continent.Kingston Antarctic Division staff swim at Blackmans Bay

A swift swim in icy waters marked the passage of midwinter for expeditioners at Australia’s Antarctic and sub Antarctic stations.

Teams at Casey, Davis and Mawson stations cut a hole in the sea ice and plunged into the Southern Ocean, while on Macquarie Island, expeditioners dashed into the chilly surf.

Mawson Station Leader, Jenny Wressell, said wintering crews mark the winter solstice with a range of activities including games, pantomimes and a gourmet dinner.

“This year the team of 14 people at Mawson will take part in a mini-Olympic games, with events ranging from ten pin bowling to ice cave construction,” Jenny Wressell said.

Midwinter celebrations are a tradition dating back more than a century to Sir Douglas Mawson’s heroic era of exploration.

Ms Wressell said midwinter activities boost team morale during the long, dark winter days.

“During the depths of winter the sun doesn’t appear above the horizon, so we essentially have six weeks where we only have twilight for a few hours a day,” she said.

“Midwinter’s day is really a turning point for us - we celebrate the fact we’ve made it through the shortest day and look forward to seeing the sun again.”

Staff at Australian Antarctic Division headquarters in Kingston, Tasmania also participated in a midwinter swim in the less icy waters of Blackmans Bay.

Kingston staff also held a memorial ceremony for Australian Antarctic personnel who have died in Antarctica.