Carols by candlelight on Christmas Eve, a lovely dinner in the Mawson lounge with views overlooking East Bay followed by Santa distributing Kris Kringle presents on Christmas finished off by a flying visit from the Director on Boxing Day.

Christmas Eve: station photo and carols by candlelight

We did not have a photo of the Mawson summer team so it was decided that after dinner on Christmas Eve was the time to do it. We got ourselves organised on the blizz tail at the back of the living quarters and, in his usual no nonsense manner, Pete had taken half dozen photos of the group before anyone had gotten bored. The final product was available almost instantly and one version featured on Ray’s Christmas dinner menu while another one appears below.

Earlier in the week Julie had advertised ‘carols by candlelight’ with a request for some red wine and someone to accompany her on guitar. Paul D was happy to play guitar and Pete supplied the red. Julie had brought with her from Tasmania the magical Gluhwein mix of herbs and spices, probably purchased in Salamanca Place and with the addition of some extra sugar, cinnamon and other concoctions she produced a very nice mulled wine or ‘Christmas in a glass'.

With Julie and Paul directing we made a reasonable attempt at singing some carols and then others got in on the act by playing bongos and congas, the resulting impromptu band leading to a sing-along and a very enjoyable evening.

Christmas Day: dining room with the million dollar views plus Santa

The weather forecast for Christmas day was for an overcast sky and strong to gale force winds indicating a requirement for low-flying reindeers. The actual weather was a lot milder than predicted and Santa arrived safely in the early evening. Our chef, Ray, has lots of energy normally so Christmas dinner was not going to pose him any problems. There were many helpers setting up the dining room tables in the lounge, assisting with food preparation and washing the endless stream of pots and pans. After a hearty brunch at 11am some disappeared to take a nap whilst in the kitchen the hive of activity continued. Ray’s Christmas dinner was buffet style with all the courses displayed on a large table. 

Christmas dinner menu

Oysters - Kilpatrick, natural and mornay
Roast turkey — almond and sage stuffing
Whole roast eye fillet with a mustard crust
Roasted root vegetables
Tasmanian crayfish with hollandaise sauce
Croquembouche, pavlova and truffles

We all sat down about 5pm with superb views out over the sea ice and ice cliffs in East Bay. After we had finished eating, Santa (Hendo) made an appearance and distributed the Kris Kringle presents with everyone sitting on Santa’s knee except for Geoff who tried a unique approach (see below). The Secret Santa gifts were organised at the last minute. Some people were well prepared having purchased something in Australia but at least ten people made their gift on-station. All ten were great efforts and really appreciated by the recipients who were grateful to receive a gift personally made for them, however, Wayne’s ice axe displayed on a wooden map of Antarctica and Leigh’s brass etching of an emperor penguin and its chick caught my eye.

There were only 22 of us for dinner and it was like a large extended family. I think we all thought it was special to spend Christmas 2012 at Mawson.

Boxing Day: flying visit by Director

With our ever-predictable but totally uncooperative Antarctic weather, AAD Director Tony Fleming was only able to make a flying visit to Mawson. On board Twin Otter KBC with Tony were pilot Bob, co-pilot Mike, Davis personnel Malcolm, Mick and Chef Lesley as a reward for their hard work over Christmas, Davis resupply and Cliff, the last remaining Mawson summer tradie.

Tony flew into Mawson at 9:30am local time and was met with a welcoming party setting new standards in sartorial elegance. With his itinerary shortened to seven hours Tony immediately dived into an action packed day. There were discussions with Station Leader Bob and penguin biologists Julie and Helen in the dog room. Tony watched the daily ARPANSA sampling with Hendo and Anders and listened to their work in the Magnetic Absolute hut and Tide Gauge. A yummy morning tea was consumed by all, fortifying Tony for a grand tour of the station and infrastructure with BSS Pete. This involved a bit of hill climbing and a sniff of the waste treatment plant, following a trip out along West Arm for reflection as his mother’s ashes were scattered in Horseshoe Harbour. Time was also taken to pay his respects at the other memorials.

Tony then enjoyed a long lunch provided by Chef Ray with much talking, wisdom and ear bashing from the Mawsonites gathered. The final event of the day was releasing the 11z 800g weather Balloon and radiosonde during a tour of the meteorology office. With calm conditions and bright sunshine Tony performed this duty perfectly showing the skills needed if he ever wishes to join the Bureau of Meteorology.

After thanks and goodbyes Tony and his fellow visitors jumped into the Hägglunds and headed back out to the sea ice ski landing area. An Adelie penguin checked out the Twin Otter and Haggs, paid his respects to the Director and then watched as everyone boarded the plane ready to depart for Davis and the spectacular scenery on the way.