Happy Midwinter everyone. Thank you for your very kind well wishes and greetings. Hopefully you all celebrated the day in good order as well. We've done quite a bit of work this week, but on the lighter side, please enjoy the enclosed profile on our Midwinter day celebrations
Midwinter: the swim
“Why do expeditioners go for a swim in the sea ice on Midwinter day” asked the nice lady from ABC News. “I don’t really know” came the reply from expeditioner Leon Hamilton. “What are the origins of the Midwinter swim?” “Uh…” he answered” …there’s probably some paganistic origin to it, but I wouldn’t really like to speculate.”
So, speculation aside, 14 of us took to the chilly waters off Mawson station for the 75th ANARE Midwinter swim. The conditions were perfect: −18.2 °C air temperature with a −22°C windchill. Stepping out from a heated hut the brave few walked a few yards over snow to the ice hole, carefully prepared by the team. Slipping into the cold via a ladder, most ascended quickly thereafter and back into the heated hut, stopping only to have the safety rope removed from their harness.
For the majority, the swim lasted no more than 30 or so invigorating seconds, enough to bring a flush to the cheeks, a deep exhalation of breath and a readiness for a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate.
Midwinter: The dinner
For those on Antarctic stations, Midwinter is one of the most, if not the most, significant day of the year. It is the shortest day of the year and symbolically something of a milestone during winter where we can look back at the achievements of the last few months and forward to spring arriving and, at some point in the future, returning home to loved ones.
At Mawson this year, the crew went above and beyond in an effort to make it a special occasion. A makeshift dining room was created out of national flags, gifts hand-crafted for exchange, speeches made, greetings from fellow stations conveyed and RSVPs announced from those friends, family and famous who had received invitations. Of note, aside from the heart warming and funny greetings from friends, the expedition team were treated to video recordings from former station mechanics, carpenters, Met observers, the Governor General, the Minister for the Environment, and actress Katharine O' Donnelly (of the Antarctic drama series The Head). To name a few...
Without doubt, the highlight was the food, prepared to an extraordinarily high standard by chef Donna, who worked tirelessly in the days preceding, going well above and beyond with the dishes she prepared and served to an appreciative crew.
The menu was so extravagant it wouldn’t do it justice to try and explain every meal but one expeditioner (Nathan Earl) was overheard saying after “at times it felt like we were eating entire ecosystems! “
And of course, no meal is complete without dessert, and boy were we spoilt for choice – and to our delightful surprise Donna had perfectly hand-crafted individual penguins in the style of each expeditioner entirely from cake!
What a truly magical evening it was for all involved! Such days are what one makes of them and this year, through the hard efforts of all, we pulled off a great one.
Midwinter: The play
Something of an Antarctic tradition is the Midwinter panto-esque rendition of Cinderella. A stellar cast comprising of Station Leader Bec, Dr Dave, Ducky, Nathan, Kade, Tyson, and Tommy narrating led the audience through an abridged version of the fairy-tale.
Tipping a golden wig to the days when Antarctic stations were staffed solely by male expeditioners, necessitating male cast members in female roles, this year’s team balanced the books with a female cast member in the role of the Baron.
Lighting and direction was provided courtesy of Leon and Sealy. It certainly won’t win a Tony … but it was a lot of fun!
Midwinter: The band
With the play screening a stunning success, the party returned once more to the main lounge where the band had set up. Nestling into very comfortable lounge chairs, an arm’s length away from the cheese platters, we witnessed the premiere performance of the Midwinter band (their working title being ‘Fitzy and the Plungers’).
Led by Fitzy himself, with Leon providing supporting vocals – their set list contained Wonderwall, Like A Rolling Stone, and Oops I Did It Again and closed out with From Little Things Big Things Grow (featuring for one night only Kat on ukulele). Reviews in Rolling Stone pending, but the band have vowed to stay together for the Christmas tour.
What a truly magical evening it was for all involved! The 75th Wintering Party