A special thanks to our friends, family and colleagues who sent midwinter greetings and humorous RSVPs.
We’d also like to send a special thank you to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, John Eales, Shane Warne, Karl and Lisa from the Today program, Peter Harvey (Nine Network), and Tim Bowden for their funny midwinter greetings emails and video clips…
Midwinter in Antarctica is perhaps the most international of holidays, celebrated equally by people of all nationalities at every station in Antarctica, regardless of politics, national views or religion. Across the continent, messages of greeting and goodwill are sent via e-mail to everyone celebrating the special day. No doubt, many blog about the event to friends, family and readers back home. A century before the digital age, the early explorers kept meticulous records of their expeditions in diaries, including midwinter celebrations.
Pretty much everyone writes about the food. While Antarctic living has come a long way from cold, unheated huts and ship cabins, the ability to store food over these long months is still very much the same. Both then and now, the residents of the Antarctic winter survive mostly on canned or frozen meats and vegetables.
Along with a lavish feast, midwinter celebrations across the years and the continent have included music, plays and other forms of revelry. From the Age of Exploration, Antarctica was a place dominated by men. This often led to interesting versions of theatre, with some of the men dressing up as women and playing roles in much-enjoyed skits and plays.
While co-ed research stations are the norm today, even in winter, the celebrations still reflect the history and tradition of years past. Costumes and skits still prevail in many of the station celebrations, although now there is less need for cross-dressing. In a more modern twist to the celebration, many station events feature homegrown rock bands and dance parties.
Marking the inevitable and anticipated return of the sun upon the horizon and the dawning of a new season, midwinter brings with it a feeling of hope and a renewed sense of purpose and possibility. And no matter what changes come with the passing of time and the rise of new technology, many of the hardships remain the same, as well as the traditions that we carry on from expedition to expedition, station to station, and generation to generation.
Extracts from Station Logs
20th June — A fine sunny day, although a cold wind. Amidst much merriment our GT piano was escorted up the isthmus from the rookery to the mess by an oddly dressed bunch of individuals.
Meanwhile preparations go on apace in readiness for tomorrow. I hope all goes peacefully as we have several people here who tend to lose control of themselves on these occasions. It is certainly my opinion that self discipline is a quality sadly lacking in many younger men today — and others are too easily persuaded to follow like sheep. My duty becomes a matter of carefully and unobtrusively playing a balancing and modifying role — it works but not well enough.
Monday 21st — This, at least, is midwinter’s day! We got telegrammes from the South Africans, Russians and Japanese — I read these out during our dinner.
At midday 6 intrepid characters paraded on the beach for the benefit of cowardly fully clad photographers. The elite 6 then plunged into the seal ridden sea and had a pleasant swim bbbrrrrrrr.
At 1530 we all sat down for our midwinter dinner. The layout was fabulous, the chef had laid on a tremendous variety of food and the menus were beautifully produced each with a large studio photo of the individual produced by Frederico. I am writing this in such a happy mood that I may use a few too many superlatives (having just demolished a spare half bottle of claret, I may be biased).
The evening programme commenced on stage at 1900 hrs. It is impossible to describe it — it had to be seen. “Cinderella” — most of the words were drowned in waves of laughter. Interludes were provided by our band. John did a mind reading act then came Graeme who sang a 37 verse song composed by himself and everyone joining in the chorus. Fred sang in the style of Rolf Harris and Jim got going on Scottish songs and all the time we took care of our thirst.
June 20th — Hercules overhead just after 1300, several bizzy lizzies, 5 parachutes and nil lost although the first one went into the sea and 4 of the team got rather wet fetching it out. Very fast efficient drop. Pineapples dropped — lovely.
21st — tequila sunrises for those who made it up at 730. Retired to the sealers for the play after dinner. The play was hilarious and shambolic from the start. Roy barely able to stand fell over and brought the stage down. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the play, followed by dancing on top of tables by Roy and Mike. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and mass hysteria prevailed when the tape of the proceedings was replayed.
The day was calm and clear, allowing all outdoor activities to take place. A good atmosphere. However the day’s activities took their toll in the early evening and only 6 were left standing by 10pm.
More photos next week!