Daring Antarctic expeditioners are celebrating the winter solstice with an icy dip in freezing waters at Australia’s research stations.
With the air temperature hovering at −30°C and the water temperature just −1.8°C, 15 of the team at Davis station plunged through a hole in the sea ice for the traditional midwinters swim.
Davis Station Leader, Kirsten le Mar said midwinter’s day is the halfway point for expeditioners wintering on the continent and a highlight of the Antarctic calendar.
“After three weeks of darkness, today marks the beginning of longer days in Antarctica, although it will still be 19 days before the sun starts to peek above the horizon here at Davis,” Dr le Mar said.
The tradition of midwinter celebrations dates back to the heroic era of exploration, more than a century ago, and is celebrated by expeditioners of all nationalities living on the continent.
At Australia’s Mawson research station a sea ice golf competition will be held and expeditioners will perform a play at Casey while also marking the occasion in their own ‘ice castle’.
The team on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island are marking the return of longer days with a double swim in the Southern Ocean on both sides of the isthmus.
A total of 68 expeditioners are living and working in Antarctica and on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island in support of the Australian Antarctic Program this winter.
Dr le Mar, who is experiencing her first Antarctic winter, said living on the continent over the past few months has been “like finally seeing the picture as a whole”.
“I’ve spent many summers in Antarctica when there is constant daylight, lots of animals and mild conditions,” Dr le Mar said.
“Experiencing the other side of that; the darkness, cold and wild weather is like getting to know an old friend even better, in all their glorious moods. Another great thing is getting to experience other-worldly phenomenon such as the unusual polar clouds, the movement of the sun, the bright stars and the auroras australis, all making our time here simply extraordinary.”
The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) and Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg MP sent video greetings to the expeditioners for their midwinter celebrations.
Back at the Antarctic Division’s headquarters in Kingston, staff will enjoy a midwinters lunch and for the more adventurous, a dip in the Derwent River. Returned expeditioners will also gather around Australia to celebrate midwinters and remember their time with the Australian Antarctic Program.