This week is all about the festivities of midwinter celebrations past and present, with just a little bit of science to prove we really are here for work!

Happy Midwinter from Macca

We trooped out the other Saturday to take our first official group shot to use as our midwinter greeting. As soon as we got outside, the sun went away and it started to hail — typical Macca. It all came together beautifully though with some serendipitous timing from this elephant seal playing with his mate (who’s just out of frame in case you're wondering).

Traditionally we send this out to all the other stations in the subantarctic and Antarctica, and this year we received over 30 similar greetings in reply. Even a rogue summer solstice one from Summit Station in Greenland!

Midwinter Day

Midwinter Day dawned with clear blue skies, bright sunshine and barely any wind. A sensational morning.

We started the official proceedings with a video link to Kingston for the Midwinter Memorial Service: a remembrance service for all AAD expeditioners who have died while employed in Antarctica or Macquarie and Heard Islands.

Then it was a quick change and off for the Two Bay Swim. This year we started in Buckles Bay for a full plunge, followed by a run across the isthmus to West Beach for a knee high dip — a bit of an undertow meant no one was going in all the way. Deputy Station Leader Joe was on as lifeguard and even had the flags out, with Dom, Pete and Esther as wildlife spotters. The briskness of the water temperature inspired a very quick sprint to the newly renovated spa to thaw. Afterwards it was time for a champagne brunch in the Mess — another fine feast from Chef Rocket – followed by a link-up with Kingston and the other stations to share midwinter cheer.

Post brunch was games in the Green Store – table tennis, cricket, hoop shooting and a very elaborate multi-storey crazy golf. We finished with some ‘Pin the Tail’ on the elephant before the sun went down and it was time to get ready for the evening’s festivities.

Midwinter Night

Once games were over, it was time to get the Mess ready for dinner and a show. Everyone got involved and Chef Rocket had plenty of volunteers. We went for a more formal table setting and once all was perfect, everyone went off to get dressed up, returning for Helen playing mixologist for the ‘drinks and canapes’ section of the evening.

Dinner commenced at 1800 and the cheese plates didn’t hit the table until after 2230 and five courses of brilliant food, complete with fresh salads and snowpeas from our own hydroponics. There was again more food than we could eat (so a fabulous catch ‘n’ kill fridge to look forward to) and the courses were interspersed with numerous toasts, both formal and informal, and messages from colleagues, friends and family who couldn’t join us on the night. These included a video message from the Governor General to all stations, and a personal note from both the Tasmanian Governor and Premier. We were even sent good wishes from Dr Jane Goodall, Julia Morris and Midnight Oil.

After dinner there was a show involving everyone on station revealing various talents. Even those of us who had claimed no performance skills were made to get up and dance — not to mention some surprise guest performers. Excellent MC'ing by Ben, who had a few spontaneous schedule gaps to fill, made sure nothing lagged.

The show didn’t finish until after midnight and then, there may have been some karaoke…

A great day and night, hugely enjoyed by all.


ARPANSA (Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency) runs a Radionuclide station on Macquarie Island as part of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). A CTBT to ban all nuclear explosion tests was opened for signature in New York on September 24, 1996 and Australia signed the Treaty on the same day and ratified it on July 9, 1998.

The International Monitoring System (IMS) was constructed to monitor compliance with the Treaty. By analysing, integrating and comparing data from the IMS, the time, location and nature of a possible nuclear event can be determined. The network consists of 321 monitoring facilities and 16 radionuclide laboratories that monitor the earth for evidence of nuclear explosions in all environments. These monitoring facilities use a variety of methods to detect evidence of nuclear testing. Seismic, hydroacoustic and infrasound are employed to monitor the underground, underwater and atmosphere environments, respectively. The fourth technology detects radiation from atmospheric sampling.

The 80 radionuclide stations can detect radioactive debris from atmospheric explosions or vented by underground or underwater nuclear explosions. The presence of specific radionuclides provides unambiguous evidence of a nuclear explosion. 

Here on Macquarie Island the station requires daily attention to move the air filter through the three day process, so that the computer can send all the data to the International Data Centre in Vienna where it is compiled and released to Treaty countries.


Midwinter has long been a major celebration down south. 

There are various traditions around the day including variations of a swim, sporting activities, an excellent meal and some sort of performance. Looking at the old station logs, ‘Cinderella’ seems to feature heavily — never underestimate the power of panto – although I have to admit we skipped it this year.

Interesting to see what others have got up to over the years – might have to think about bringing back the golf, but not sure about 1995’s take on the swim…

Station log 21/6/60

Consumed 14 doz beers no wine and this reduced drunkenness. We can take beer better. Magnificent dinner prepared by Brennan midday. Toast with French brandy. In the afternoon a bowls tournament and a recorded presentation of historical pageant of Macquarie Island to celebrate 150th anniversary. Play was written and produced by Jim McQueen — a very good effort. Buffet tea… evening included music by our own orchestra with home-made instruments. Also a radio hook-up with Mawson, Wilkes, Davis. A very happy day.

Station log 21/6/75

Eleven of us went for a swim on western beach and o boy was it bloody freezing. Dinner and Play great success. By 2130 I had had enough and left the boys to their own devices. 

Station log 21/6/80

Golf open postponed till tomorrow in view of wind and rain but croquet played instead and most exhausted by it. ‘Cinderella’ the usual glorious riot and several other skits… Hilarious evening went on until 0500 or thereabouts. 

Station log 21/6/84

We have survived Midwinter — but only just. All the traditional activities — haggis throwing, a midwinter swim, a huge meal. Cinderella with Coppo and Bernie S memorable as the ugly sisters and Phil as the Fairy Queen; various other songs and sketches and, of course, a fair bit of grog. Left at midnight with most of the party still going strong.

Station log 21/6/88

A gloomy, drizzly day. Our festivities started in earnest after lunch with the Macquarie Island Golf Competition first up. This involves each expeditioner trying to putt three golf balls into a bucket in Market Square from the first lookout on Wireless Hill… I’m surprised the referee (Kim) didn’t wear a crash hat because it must have been like being in the London Blitz down there for a while… Sporting events were wound up with a Rotten Orange Throwing Contest following by the Midwinter’s swim. 

Station log 21/6/95

Pentathlon of the Ellie Seal

  1. Waddle and snort on belly through the snow
  2. Drink can of beer/soft drink and burp
  3. Apple dunk in bucket of wallow water (actually made up brown stuff)
  4. Pillow fight in real wallow
  5. Swim — fully submerged — in east coast.
  6. Race to the sauna.

Station log 21/6/04

We started with a Champagne brunch… then it was off to the beach, complete with lifeguard and flags, for the ritual two-ocean dip. About half the company participated and then enjoyed a long soak in the spa to recover… We soon saw the amazing extent of Clinton’s creativity as the table decorations emerged. First an ice sculpture spelling MACCA was installed down the centre of the table, then a soaring ice albatross took its place on a pedestal. Finally, the pièce de résistance – two superbly crafted and painted king penguin butter sculptures. They weighed over 20kg each and were not only life size but wonderfully lifelike.