I woke as normal, headed for breakfast and a look of bewilderment in my half open eyes came over me as I looked at the temperature gauge — it was −6.9°C. Normally I wouldn’t take much notice, but today was no ordinary day. It was Australia Day and a group of us were heading towards the wharf for a swim, or in my case a “splash and giggle”. This was all being coordinated by our station leader Mark, who incidentally was sporting yet another new outfit straight from the catwalk in Milan.
With Gavin having put the pig on the spit, and all the arrangements made for the traditional BBQ later in the arvo, we all headed to the wharf. Some potential swimmers were quietly keeping to themselves, while others were laughing nervously to prepare for the swim. It was in all our minds that we might hit the wall after the first 2 metres and have to make a split decision — “do I keep going or err on the side of safety and turn back?”. I turned back because I didn’t have a clear view of the target — a small peice of sea ice that was sitting several metres out from the wharf. I heard lots of new words being used, some that wouldn’t be classed as words, as people made the swim to the piece of ice and then set off on the hasty swim back to the shore. Some words that I haven’t heard, even in the urban dictionary. With the marathon swim over, there was a collective sigh of relief and a sense of accomplishment that we had all achieved something, and put it on our list of a 1000 things I must not do again.
With the swim out of the way we turned our attention to something we have all done before, well nearly all, a game of cricket. It would be Australia versus an International selection. The pitch had been rolled and the wicket showed no real consistency of bounce — it promised to be an epic encounter. The Australian team bowled first and it became evident that the Internationals would be under some pressure as the Australians used the wicket to full advantage. The International selection was captained by James, who was very doubtful to play as he has been nursing an achilles injury he received in the world series ping pong game a few weeks ago. A few controversial umpiring decisions brought calls of match fixing, and led many to believe there was an international betting scandal taking place right here at Casey.
We thought we had seen it all, but what cricket match on Australia day would be true to form without the traditional Australian streaker making an appearance? Having slipped past security, he quickly invaded the pitch, and had all the photographers on their feet — many were seen to be frantically attempting to change the settings on their cameras to macro, in an attempt to capture the moment.
At the end of the game Australia seemed to get there by a ball or so. We settled down to a BBQ, a kick of the footy and some music. As we watched the sun dip low across the sky, but not go down, many were recalling the great catch-taking, or the one that slipped through, but all were heard to be talking of the same thing… a great day had by all, and for many the first Australia Day celebrated in Antarctica.