This week was midwinter. Midwinter means different things to everybody at the station. For some who have been in Antarctica for multiple seasons, midwinter is a celebration full of tradition. For others of us this was our first midwinter and we had no real idea of what was involved.
Winter solstice is the celebration of the longest night and the shortest day. There is a long tradition of celebration in Scandinavia, ancient Roman, Chinese and Japanese history. Having lived with limited daylight for a number of weeks here at the station I have a new understanding of the northern hemisphere traditional celebration of the return of the light and sun.
In an effort to understand the Antarctic tradition of midwinter more clearly I turned to the station leader log books. The station leaders’ diaries are full of stories about food, Cinderella plays and lots of fine wines. The first log that I could read was from 1956:
21 June — Midwinter day
Excellent weather through the day, clear almost no wind, not particularly cold. Magnificent meal by John McKenzie, assisted by willing volunteers.
Soup — cream of tomato, Fish — creamed crab, entrée — smoked ham, braised duck with mushroom stuffing, vegetables, plum pudding and cream, ice cream and strawberries in jelly, stuffed olives, dried fruit, pate and cheese, coffee, liqueurs, champagne, riesling, claret, burgundy and beer for those who prefer. ANARE gift box much appreciated. Midwinter cables received and sent.
Similarly to 1956, we had a beautiful day for midwinter, but it was definitely cold! −30°C and wind of around 20 knots…
With willing volunteers we decorated the mess with flags from treaty members, ironed table clothes, printed menus and organised activities.
Gav the chef went all out for the day with a beautiful champagne brunch spread to start the day and an evening meal fit for the history books.
- First course was trio of game flavors: Seared Tasmanian wallaby, quail and crispy duck on a miso salad tartlet with rocket and cashew pesto.
- Second course: Seafood tasting plate complete with prawns, smoked salmon and rock lobster.
- Main course: Sixty day aged beef sirloin with galette potatoes and chimichurri dressing.
- Dessert: Rose petal panna cotta or double chocolate tart or both if you had room!