Australians plunge into ice hole in midwinter dark

Midwinter swim 2019

Video transcript

Amy Chetcuti – Davis Station Expedition Mechanic

Doing the swim was exhilarating. You think you are in there for ages, but it was like three seconds, so survival instincts definitely kick in.

Simon Goninon – Davis Station Leader

Water temperature is around minus 2 degrees, maybe just shy of that. Air temperature today is actually pretty good, around minus 22/23, and not a lot of wind, maybe four or five knots. So it’s actually a pretty good day.

The day on station is just really important for people, whether its people who have been coming down here for multiple seasons, or whether its people, like myself who are down here for the first time. It’s just a really nice way to recognise this turning point for winter, for everyone to gather together, and mark it as a really special occasion.

What it’s actually like to actually take this plunge is a bit hard to describe. Your breath gets taken away, it’s just a completely foreign feeling. You’re in sub zero water, the whole fight or flight response kicks in and you really just want to get the hell out of the water. And to be honest it’s once you’re out that’s the worst thing, because you’re dropping 20 degrees getting out of the water and into the air temp.

Luke D’Anastasi – Davis Station Expedition Mechanic

This is my first time down here and swimming in Antarctica was pretty hectic, pretty cold, I felt like my body was on fire and my head was screaming get to the ladder and get out as quick as you possibly could.

Kieran Lusio – Davis Station Boiler Maker

It’s pretty intense, pretty invigorating. But the water is not too bad, it’s just the getting out bit that’s super cold. I really enjoyed it.

[end transcript]

Preparing the midwinter swimming hole in the sea-ice, in front of Australia’s Davis research station
Preparing the midwinter swimming hole in the sea-ice, in front of Australia’s Davis research station (Photo: Dan Gough)
Plumber Dan Gough plunges into the icy pool as part of midwinter celebrations at Australia’s Davis research stationDavis research station Weather Observer, Amy Geels, braves the minus 1.5 degrees waterTime to warm up!  Davis station leader, Simon Goninon, dives for the towel after his icy dip Here we go!  Davis research station electrician, Joe Burton, plunging into ice holeHere we go!  Davis research station electrician, Joe Burton, plunging into ice holeHere we go!  Davis research station electrician, Joe Burton, plunging into ice holeHere we go!  Davis research station electrician, Joe Burton, plunging into ice hole

It’s minus 23 degrees Celsius, dark and you’re standing on the edge of a hole dug into the sea-ice – what do you do?

If you’re an Australian Antarctic Program expeditioner you plunge in of course!

Davis research Station Leader, Simon Goninon, said expeditioners look forward to the midwinter swim with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and dread.

“When it’s below minus 23 degrees on the ice, and about minus 1.5 degrees in the water, and you strip down to your budgie smugglers, believe me you know you’re alive,” Mr Goninon said.

“It’s one of those things, you know it might sting a bit but it’s an occasion you’ll remember forever.”

To mark the shortest day of the year, expeditioners at Australia’s three Antarctic research stations and on sub Antarctic Macquarie Island take an icy dip.

The astronomical winter solstice is on 22 June at 1:54am, when the South Pole is tilted furthest from the sun.

Midwinter marks a significant milestone for the wintering expeditioners, who spend between 12–18 months on the icy continent.

“This is a turning point for our team and it also means the sun will soon return to the continent after weeks of living in twilight, when the sun has just been skimming below the horizon,” he said.

“The midwinter celebrations will include a magnificent feast, exchange of handmade gifts, home-grown entertainment and messages from home.”

On Macquarie Island the expeditioners do two swims, dashing across the narrow Isthmus to swim in the cold waters of both the west and east coast.

This winter there are 74 people at Australia’s stations, with most due to return home at the end of the year.

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley MP sent video greetings to the expeditioners for their midwinter celebrations.