Midwinters celebration have been the centre of all our activities on Macquarie Island recently.
All week we received messages of midwinter greetings from stations across the Antarctic and subantarctic, and a few from the northern hemisphere research stations as well. Many of us agreed that it was wonderful to experience the connection with other expeditioners from so many nations, all celebrating the experience of a long winter.
On Friday we kicked off proceedings with a heritage lunch, fittingly hosted in the Tas Parks artefacts hut. We donned outfits reminiscent of those worn by early expeditioners, and paid homage to midwinter past with a recreated menu from 1959. We connected with head office at Kingston, and with the other three station via video link, and a fun afternoon was had by all.
On Saturday afternoon, station was abuzz with preparatory activities. Marion was printing out greetings and menus, Justin and Rich were prepping in the kitchen, and the others were assembling decorations and furnishings for midwinter day. Despite a big freeze last week, our pipes thawed for sufficiently long enough to enable plumber Ben to fill and heat our hot tub for the first time this year.
We woke to a cold day on Sunday, with the temperatures hovering around minus three. We slowly assembled in the mess for the midwinter swim, half of us looking nervously out the window toward the isthmus, the other half keep a close eye on the meteorological observations panel. Fortunately, the cold froze the ground solid, meaning that our dash from coast to coast would at least not be hampered by running in soft sand. Most expeditioners assembled for a pre-swim group photo, and then promptly dashed for the west coast dodging rocks, rotting kelp and elephant seals to plunge into the surf. Involuntary shrieks and squeals were released, and the long run over the sand to the east coast commenced. Few of us could feel our feet by the time we made it to the gentle waves of the east coast. More squeals were let out, and the intrepid expeditioners ran for the spa and sauna to warm up.
Sunday afternoon was filled with the ‘Macca Midwinter Olympics', with most participants bringing along a healthy attitude of ruthless competitiveness. Virtual medals were awarded and our attention turned to preparing the mess to host our midwinter meal.
A white-wall restaurant was created in the centre of the mess, and we all assembled for a cocktail followed by a gastronomic extravaganza, the likes of which many expeditioner had never before experienced. A wonderful evening of a modern take on an expeditioner tradition was experienced by all, as we celebrated looking forward to the lengthening days, and future experiences together yet to come.
For the remainder of the week it has been back to work, taking observations, planning and executing projects, and arranging upcoming field trips. After such a wonderful midwinter celebration, everyone has a renewed skip in their step, as we wait with anticipation for the days to lengthen so that we may see more of our beautiful island.