It’s all about Midwinter!

Station roundup

It’s been a busy few weeks on station with Midwinter preparations and celebrations dominating most activities.

As a warm up for the festivities, we had a Friday night darts game with the wintering team at Gough Island, a South African base on an island in the South Atlantic. They claim to be ‘just’ sub-Antarctic but to us the photos we saw looked positively tropical! To raise our best team, there was a quick station round robin competition and Linc and Cormac were the winners. As we are unable to video call here, the game was played via a messaging app and required scores being messaged and photos of scoreboards being sent back and forward to make sure we were on the same score — this way to play is only for the patient, as the game took about an hour and a half! It was a close call but Mawson just snuck in a win. A fun night with a good station cheer squad presence.

As preparation for our Midwinter swim, there was a dedicated digging party out for a couple of days beforehand to cut and maintain our swimming hole. As our sea ice in the harbour is now over one metre thick, quite an effort was required to make the hole. Read on for more information on how we celebrated Midwinter.

Once Midwinter recovery was over, it was straight back to work and the weather gods were good enough to enable our Colbeck team to have a successful trip through to Colbeck hut and make the census visit to Taylor Rookery mentioned last news. The team are on their way back to station now, so we’ll hear more about that trip next week.

And the sun comes back on Friday, for all of 10 minutes and 20 seconds – amazing how exciting that sounds to us here! 

There are also some photos here that didn’t make the last issue of the latest recreational trip to Béchervaise Island.

Midwinter at Mawson

Midwinter has been celebrated annually at Mawson station since 1954 and many traditions now surround it that go towards making it our biggest celebration of the year, kind of like Christmas in the real world.

It’s not just in Antarctica; Midwinter is celebrated at our head office in Kingston as well. With Mawson being five hours behind the Australian east coast there are some AAD activities that are too early in the morning for us to participate in, however most of the station population were in the cinema by 0800 for the live cross to Kingston for a hook-up with the lunchtime festivities there and all the other stations. Whilst some of them were over half way through their day, we had only just begun (and woken up) so were somewhat behind on the frivolity meter!

After the hook-up it was time to start eating, with Donna preparing a big brunch to keep us all fuelled for outdoor activities: hopefully that swim!

The Midwinter swim is probably the most anticipated tradition of Midwinter and is a controlled one-minute dip in a hole cut into the sea ice: a highlight achievement of the winter for many (although I imagine some reading this would be scratching their heads and thinking ‘Seriously? Why?'). We are regulated by specific wind and temperature conditions in order for this to occur and so, sadly, we were unable to have our swim on Midwinter this year. (We will still do it when the weather and work align so you’ll hear more about that another time…)

In lieu of a swim, Linc organised Crazy Golf in the Red Shed and this kept people amused for a few hours as they chased the little ball up and down corridors and around Lincoln-created obstacles. Whilst there were a few cries of ‘fore’ heard in the stairwells, no injuries were reported.

After golf it was time to don the finery, before meeting for canapés and champagne in the bar area. Here we viewed video messages from the Governor-General, Environment Minister, Shadow Environment Minister and friends and family. We also had a display of all the greetings that had come in from other Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations: the sending of these between stations is another long-standing tradition and a great way to see who else is living down here at this time of year and where they are.

Dinner followed in a Mess decorated with flags from all the Antarctic nations (another Midwinter tradition) and for which Donna had prepared four delicious courses plus the most incredible dessert table, including expeditioner personalised icing penguins (and a Wonder Woman penguin — call that one a station mascot as it’s too much to explain here). Significant photography time was required to immortalise the dessert table before we settled down to our leisurely feast. During dinner there were the traditional toasts to other stations, friends and family and expeditioners past and present, as well as the reading out of the many amusing replies to our invitation to join us for the evening — thank you to everyone who replied, as this is one long-standing tradition, peculiar to Midwinter, that really does add to the experience for all of us down here.

After dinner, it was time for the show. And that deserves an article all of its own…

And the reviews are in!


You've heard of Tarantino? Spielberg? Scorcese? Amateurs!

Renowned Antarctic director, Lincoln Mainsbridge premiered his 10 minute (actually 35 min) abridged version of Rob Reiner’s 1987 “The Princess Bride” in an intimate Midwinter’s evening affair for seven lucky Mawsonites.

Performed by a star-studded, international line-up from the Mawson Thespian Society, the play pitched true love against nefarious kin-slayers, pirates and one particularly cowardly prince. True love, of course, triumphed.

Lincoln’s ability to draw such sheer nuance from his cast was on full display; the reverence he has for his characters is a nod to his classical theatre principles and places Mainsbridge firmly among the upper echelon of Antarctic directors.

In one telling scene, protagonist Westley, played by Nate Payne OME (Order of Mawson…) and revenge-seeking-swordfighter, Inigo Montoya (yours truly), captivated the audience during a stage management blunder, seamlessly ad-libbing for several minutes as they awaited the late arrival of Inigo’s arch nemesis, Count Rugen, played by Kiwi Edwards.

Mainsbridge’s willing use of props and other devices also kept audiences enthralled. A certain electrician’s drink bottle, the watery contents of which was replete with Tabasco sauce inferences, found its way into one scene. The onlookers, still clearly amused at said bottle’s history with the deliciously, spicy condiment, erupted in laughter.

In another, the female protagonist, Buttercup, played by Michael Brill, declared her betrothed’s ability as a tracker was unmatched. In qualifying this statement, she alluded to the fact he would easily find a pair of prescription Spotter’s sunglasses in a blizzard — a needle still eluding our faithful Station Leader in the Mawson haystack.

In a final testament to the prowess of the cast and director, after the chants of “Encore!” had finally dissipated the following day, we held a viewing of the 1987 feature. Proof of the success of Mainsbridge's play in maintaining a faithful re-telling, brimming with the same comedy, charm and excitement of the original was evident as comments such as "Oh look! That's that bit!!!" interrupted the cinematic ambience.

Thanks Linc and cast.