After weeks of living without the sun, expeditioners at Australia’s Antarctic stations are celebrating midwinter’s day with a subzero swim through a hole cut in the sea ice.
To mark the shortest day of the year 89 expeditioners at Australia’s three research stations in Antarctica and on sub Antarctic Macquarie Island, will plunge into the icy water.
Davis Station Leader, David Knoff, said midwinter is a significant milestone for Antarctic expeditioners because it marks the turning point in a long dark winter.
“At this time of year the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon for about 5 weeks, so it’s exciting to think we are halfway through the twilight period and in just a few weeks we’ll feel the warmth of the sun again,” David Knoff said.
“As the only COVID-free place on the planet, we can get together to celebrate without having to consider social distancing.”
“We’re holding a traditional formal dinner and a pantomime performance, and for the courageous, there’s a swim in the frigid Antarctic waters.”
Mawson Station Leader, Matt Williams said the expeditioners prepare their icy pool by cutting a hole through the 2 metre thick sea-ice using a chainsaw and other equipment.
“We created a 3 by 4 metre pool and entered the water down a ladder, slowly submerged ourselves in the minus 2 degree Celsius water,” Matt Williams said.
“It actually feels almost tropical because once you get out the air temperature is about minus 22 degrees Celsius! Needless to say most people beat a hasty path to the waiting spa bath.”
Australian Antarctic Division Director, Kim Ellis, said for the Antarctic community midwinter is a time of reflection and recalibration.
“It’s a chance for us to look at how far we have come, our achievements and how we have joined together to overcome any challenges,” Mr Ellis said.
Most of the wintering expeditioners will return home at the end of this year.