Midwinter celebrations kicked off on Friday 15th, with the official opening of the new Casey bar, Splinters II. The Projects team had been working hard to meet this target since winter began, and the night was marked with Dom (chef extraordinaire) putting on a burger night for dinner, followed by a group beer tasting in the new bar. 2 Dogs Brewing Co. had put together 12 different boutique beers for the Casey family to taste and rank according to colour, aroma, and taste.
This night also marked the start of our ‘Ultimate Expeditioner’ competition. The competition was put together by Troy and Bec and designed to test the skills and knowledge of the Casey crew and crown an ultimate champion. The competition kicked off with a quiz. Expeditioners were split into four groups, and their knowledge tested on everything from Aussie music, Antarctic facts, sports and knowledge on our fellow expeditioners. Over the following week, expeditioners would also work their way through a darts, pool and chess comp to establish the overall victor!
Tuesday 19th saw the toughest (arguably mentally ill) of the Casey crew brave the sub minus 15 degree temps to take a swim in a two metre by two metre hole that had been cut into the 800mm thick ice as part of the midwinter tradition. This usually happens on midwinter’s day, but due to the weather forecast looking unfavourable, it was moved forward.
The swim itself was painful to watch, but undoubtedly more painful to participate. There were some primal moans and groans as people tried their best to cope with the −1.8 degree water. The frigid water, unfortunately, was just the beginning of the pain. Exiting the water to the −15 degree air temperature was another test of an expeditioner’s stamina. Needless to say, the 30 metre dash to the adjacent hut was made in record time, where heating and warm clothes were a sight for sore eyes.
Midwinter’s day, the 21st of June, marked 237 days on the ice for most of the wintering crew. The day started off with a video hook up with Kingston for a memorial service to pay respects to expeditioners who have lost their lives on the Antarctic continent and sub-Antarctic islands. It was a solemn reminder as to how dangerous this place can be.
We proceeded to have brunch, which our brilliant chef Dom had put together for us. A selection of bacon, eggs, brisket, and pastries were on the menu.
The afternoon was filled with the continuation of the ultimate expeditioner comps, with ‘friendly’ darts, pool and chess matches held as people worked their way through the draws. There was also an ice hockey match held in the mess, utilising makeshift plywood hockey sticks and a piece of ice as a puck.
As the afternoon came to an end, we all donned our best suits/dresses and met in the new bar for some pre-dinner drinks, and the traditional exchange of midwinter gifts. From stools, to boom boxes, walking sticks to dog/cat costumes and more. We were all amazed at some of the creations people had put together for the occasion.
Once our gifts were exchanged, we made our way to the dinner table, which we had moved to the newly built first floor. Dom had again gone above and beyond with his meal preparations, and we were spoiled with a delicious three course meal. The whole crew could not express enough their thanks to Dom for the efforts he had put in to cater for the night.
At the end of the meal, the traditions continued as we were read some of the replies to our midwinter invitations sent to various friends, family and celebrities. A lot of laughs ensued when hearing some of the excuses as to why they could not attend. There were also various video replies to add to the night, with a notable mention of none other than the one and only Russell Coight, who had put together a clip especially for us!
Then it was time for the pre-prepared video entertainment, the ‘Sounds of Penguins’ video clip involving the entire station and then some comedy skits, ‘LetterCasey', based on the Canadian comedy ‘LetterKenny’ which many on station have enjoyed watching this year. Great entertainment, although the bloopers were probably the best!
We saw the night out with a few drinks and a dance party in the new bar.
A great night (great week even) was had by all. Lots of laughter, lots of good times, and a few days to recover at the end of it, as we look forward to seeing the return of the longer days and making the most of our remaining 130 days on station.