Happy midwinter everyone. Thank you for your very kind well wishes and greetings. Hopefully you all celebrated the day in good order as well. We've done quite a bit of work this week, but on the lighter side, please enjoy the enclosed profile on our midwinter day celebrations, the second instalment of the winter Olympics and our video conference with budding expeditioners back in Australia.

Midwinter: the swim

“Why do expeditioners go for a swim in the sea ice on midwinter day” asked the nice lady from ABC News 24. “I don’t really know” came the reply from James M. “What are the origins of the midwinter swim?” “Uh…” he answered ”…there’s probably some paganistic origin to it, but I wouldn’t really like to speculate.”

So, speculation aside, 13 of us took to the chilly waters off Davis station for the 68th ANARE midwinter swim. The conditions were perfect: −26.7°C air temperature with a −34.7°C windchill. Stepping out from a heated van the brave few walked a few yards over pallets to the ice hole, carefully prepared by team dieso. Slipping into the cold via a ladder, most ascended quickly thereafter and back into the heated van, stopping only to have the safety rope removed from their harness.

The majority the swim lasted no more than 30 or so invigorating seconds, enough to bring a flush to the cheeks, a deep exhalation of breath and a readiness for a makeshift heated spa, set up outside of the living quarters.

Midwinter: the dinner

For those on Antarctic stations, midwinter is one of the most, if not the most ,significant day of the year. It is the shortest day of the year and symbolically something of a halfway point during a winter where we can look back at the achievements of the last months and forward to spring arriving and, at some point in the future, returning home to loved ones.

At Davis this year, the crew went above and beyond in an effort to make it a special occasion. A makeshift dining room was created out of hessian curtains and national flags, a penguin was carved out of sea ice, reprints of station memorabilia were made, gifts crafted for exchange, speeches made, greetings from fellow stations conveyed and RSVPs announced from those friends, family and famous who had received invitations. Of note, aside from the heartwarming and funny greetings from friends, the expedition team were treated to video recordings from former station chefs and doctors, the governor general, the minister for the environment, Chief of the Army, and actor Michael Caton. Greetings were read also from Sir David Attenborough and the offices of Dame Judi Dench and astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Without doubt, the highlight was the food, prepared to an extraordinarily high standard by Chef Dami T. The chef, with the aid of Brendan H and Adam C, had worked tirelessly in the days preceeding, going well above and beyond with the dishes he prepared and served to an appreciative crew.

Such days are what one makes of them and this year, through the hard efforts of all, we pulled off a great one. 

Midwinter: the play

Something of an Antarctic tradition is the midwinter panto-esque rendition of Cinderella. A stellar cast comprising of Aaron C, Ducky, Jan W, Vicki H, Marc M, Alex R and Birdman narrating led the audience through an abridged version of the fairytale.

Tipping a golden wig to the days when Antarctic stations were staffed by male expeditioners only necessitating male cast members in female roles, this year’s team balanced the books with female cast members in the roles of the handsome prince and Cinderella’s family.

Lighting was provided courtesy of team dieso.

Midwinter: the band

With the play and Tropfest screening a stunning success, the party returned once more to the lounge room where the band had set up. Nestling into very comfortable lounge chairs, an arms length away from chocolates and cheese platters, we witnessed the premiere performance of the midwinter band (their working title being ‘Rowdy and the Comfy Chairs').

Led by Rowdy himself on guitar, supported by Mark D and James M, with Scotty W on the drums and Mr David B on vocals and harmonica, the band’s set list included: ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door', ‘Brother’ (by Little Birdy), ‘To Her Door’ (by Paul Kelly), ‘The Boxer’ (by Simon and Garfunkle) and ‘Breaking the Girl (By RHC).

Reviews in Rolling Stone pending, but the band had fun at least.

Back to school

This Wednesday, Davis took part in the Living in Antarctica video conference facilitated by NSW education and the Australian Antarctic Division head office in Kingston, Tasmania.

Speaking via a tablet to two consecutive video link ups, each included a dozen or so schools. Expeditioners from Davis spoke about their roles and life on station. Each school then presented their own design of the ultimate Antarctic vehicle with some very inventive ideas ranging from iceberg melting ray guns and ejector seats to multi-purpose rescue systems. The idea of heated seats, individual bathrooms and showers on board the vehicles, and a kitchen were very well received by expeditioners.

There were also many very pragmatic suggestions like onboard GPS systems, tyres with treads on them, snowploughs and additional lighting systems. Future generations of Australian Antarctic expeditioners need not worry. They are in safe hands with the students of today.

Well done kids!

Winter Olympics: part II

Round two of the ‘Davis Winter Olympic Games’ saw the competitors heading to the living quarters dining area. The ice sport theme continued with ice hockey goal shooting. Again, black plastic substituted for the ice of the playing surface and contestants attempted to shoot pucks made of ice into the goal area. As the rounds progressed the target area was reduced in width, meaning that only the best shooters continued through.

The steady hand of Dr Jan easily accounted for all comers taking the individual honors. It wasn’t quite enough to steer team ‘Ops’ to the combined win, that title went to team ‘Chippy'. Overall standings see Brendan with a very narrow margin, still in top place individually, and team ‘Ops’ maintaining top slot for the team event.

Next week we'll have the wrap up from the green store ‘Boffin’ boot toss. Go team plumbers!​