A little while ago our station leader Dani received an email from South Pole station. It was an invitation to participate in the inaugural Antarctic Games.
The email explained how the folks at South Pole station held these games, which they called the Polympics, amongst themselves each winter, and that the French stations were doing something similar. They saw them as a great way to strengthen their community and inject some fun and excitement during the long polar night. In the spirit of international friendship, support and camaraderie, this year they decided to invite all of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations to join in.
The amount of thought and effort that the organisers at South Pole put into the event was astounding. Two key themes were 'participation' and 'collaboration'. To encourage participation they included a wide range of events: crossfit; tetrathlon; dance; art; and e-games. To encourage interaction between stations they constructed teams combining people from different stations for the tetrathlon, art and e-games events.
Lee, Sacha, Hermann and myself put our names forward for the tetrathlon, Matt and Scott for the crossfit, and Adam, Codey and Garv for the e-games.
Speaking for myself, I was extremely naive and under prepared going into the tetrathlon event. I thought I might be doing a single leg such as the bike ride and that would be my contribution to the team. I hadn't been doing any exercise lately, but I thought I would be able to pull something like that off. Oh how wrong!
The instructions for the tetrathlon were very elaborate, but thorough in their explanations. Having said that, it still took us some time to wrap our heads around what we had got ourselves into. We had been teamed up with the French station at Crozet Islands. Effectively each station would do a biathlon, with our results being combined to form a tetrathlon. It was a lot of fun communicating with our counterparts at Crozet Islands. We negotiated that we would do the ride and the ski events, and they would do the run and rowing events.
Here's a breakdown of how it worked, hopefully to give you an idea of the pain and suffering we endured:
The clock started and I was the first to ride 18km as fast as I could on the exercise bike. Every 3 km I would shout out and everybody else would then have to do as many pushups as they could in one minute.
Hermann was the next on the bike, and every 3km he rode we all had to do as many jump-lunges as we could in two minutes. The gaps between finishing the jump-lunges and Hermann calling out the next 3 km seemed to evaporate way too quickly!
Our next rider was Sacha, and this time the rest of us had to do as many burpees as we could in one minute every 3km. Sacha punched out a very quick time on the bike, but that meant we felt like we were constantly doing burpees!
Lee brought it home on the bike while the rest of us maintained a wall-sit for as long as possible every 3km. A wall sit is where you have your back against the wall, and slide down to a sitting position on an imaginary chair with your knees bent at right angles. You try to maintain this position for as long as possible while your thighs burn.
With the clock still running, Lee jumped off the bike and we all quickly changed for the outdoors and grabbed our skis. We actually don't have a lot of flat skiable snow at Davis, so Tim our master plant operator and snow mover created a smooth 100m track down the main street. We all did ten laps up and back to ski 2km, with the clock stopping as each of us finished. I think it is safe to say we were all completely spent! We were absolutely exhausted, but at the same time stoked that we had made it, and with no injuries! The cheers and encouragement we got from our supporters certainly helped get us over the line. Hermann, the Games oldest competitor, proudly announced his retirement from international sport.
Our team mates at Crozet Islands went through a similar ordeal with their events, and we exchanged anecdotes, photos and results. Our times were tallied, along with the counts of all of the additional exercises we completed, and the organisers at South Pole converted all this into an overall score. Team Davis-Crozet came in at third place!
Over to Matt for a few comments on the Crossfit event:
The Crossfit competition involved four independent events with a mix of strength, cardio, and muscular endurance. Each event had to be judged by a third party person whom was not involved in the competition, with some of the times submitted bordering on world record times. The events and results are as follows:
Event 1 had the competitors performing three rounds of 30 hand release push-ups, and 21 overhead lunges with an empty 20kg barbell. The start and end position was located five metres from the 20kg barbell, with the competitor needing to transition quickly over to the exercise area at the beginning and end to ensure a competitive time. This was done with the fastest time taking the crown. Matt came in 2nd place with 6 minutes and 11 seconds.
Event 2 was a team event with 30, 20, 10 reps of 50kg deadlift followed by burpees over the bar, with the start and end position located five metres away from the deadlift bar. As a partner workout, the first member undertakes the round of 30 and is then followed by the partner conducting the round of 30, then 20 and so on. Only one member of the team is to undertake the round at a time. When both members have completed all reps, and are both located at the original five metre start position, the time stops. Matt and Scott came in third with 7 minutes and 17 seconds.
Event 3 was also a team event comprising dumbbell thrusters with 10kg dumbbells and sit-ups. The score was the total of all of the reps of both the thrusters and sit-ups performed in a 12 minute time cap. One person would conduct the thrusters whilst the other would conduct sit-ups. They could change exercises whenever they wanted, as long as each were undertaking either the thrusters or the sit-ups at any one time. Scott and Matt had Station Leader Dani judging and counting reps for this event, so the pressure was on. They came in first place with 676 reps!
Event 4 was an individual strength based event, with competitors having only ten minutes to find a max effort lift in the back squat, deadlift and bench press. The time starts, with the competitor having ten minutes to find their max lift for the back squat. Once complete the competitor moves straight into their ten minute window to find their max lift deadlift. After their deadlift they move straight into their ten minute block for max lift bench press. The competitor with the highest total value of lifts wins the event. The lifts were recorded in kilograms. Matt came in fourth with 420kg.
A big shout out to the organisers of these events, and the people who took the time to judge the events.
Over to Adam for a few comments on the e-games:
We have been playing wargear.net, a game much like Risk but online, the main difference being you are only able to see the board immediately next to your tiles. We had one team representing Australia in Heat one, Garvan and Codey,and another team representing international co-operation in Heat two, Adam and an American from South Pole station. Team Australia went hard and fast taking a commanding lead but making enemies, ultimately leading to their defeat. Team International had a different strategy, the ethos being subversion and deception, with Adam having over 20 pages of negotiations so far. Heat two is still underway and that is all we can say about that. Spies are everywhere.
After the results from the different events were submitted and processed (except for the e-games which might be done by the end of our season!) South Pole organised a closing ceremony zoom session, where we could interact with the other stations and they would announce the results. Due to time-zone differences and other commitments only seven stations were able to join, but it was still such a great thing to be a part of. It was wonderful to be able to see the people who had put so much effort into organising the Games, and some of the people we had competed with.
Though we were all from different countries and separated around the continent and sub-Antarctic islands, we share a strong connection. We are all going through similar experiences living and working in small isolated communities in harsh environments, with common goals of understanding and protecting the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic environment. Our thanks go to the organisers at South Pole, for the massive effort they put in, and for giving us all the opportunity to come together and have a lot of fun during the depths of winter.
Oh, and we celebrated a third place in the tetrathlon, a first, second, and third in the crossfit, and well, we'll just have to wait and see with the e-games!