Strange rumours of an Antarctic outdoor bathing ritual had been simmering on station for months but, naturally, I suspected it was just another joke at the expense of first-time expeditioners; that AAD humour in play.
As Midwinter approached, the level of exaggeration increased daily. Did you know there was a crocodile seen at Casey last year? Or that Leopard seals have in fact been known to swim hundreds of kilometres underwater from the sea-ice edge, conveniently popping up in your icy bath at inopportune moments?
Nevertheless, prior to Midwinter day, our handsome Dieso, Nate ‘Maverick’ Payne, lead a determined team of tradies in carving out a hole in the sea ice edge with an arsenal of heavy machinery. Cold fingers and mechanical faults aside, the water appeared so damn cold to me that even the krill were inclined to escape. In any case, the infamous Mawson katabatic winds ensured the event was postponed.
Fast-forward to the week after Midwinter Day, and there we were. Thirteen of us lined up like penguins, one after another, to take the plunge. Some lasted longer than others did. Some adopted a steely resolve, showing no emotion while others were less stoic. I swear I saw a crocodile attached to one expeditioner with my own eyes. All of the rumours appeared to be coming true.
When it was my turn, I double-checked my status as the only marine mammal present, dismounted the entry ladder with an air of Irish grace and upon re-emerging, I resolved that it actually wasn’t that bad — revitalising if anything.
After the event had concluded, we made full use of the windless evening and warmed up in the outdoor hot tub. A tasting platter was produced and enjoyed by all and sundry as we toasted our success at tackling the Midwinter swim.
*Ed Note: Cormac had nothing to do with the writing of this article - think of it more as ‘Cormac’s thinking'…as presumed by A.N.Other Expeditioner!