Midwinter: The most international holiday?
Going back to the "heroic" era of Shackleton, Mawson and Scott, antarctic expeditions have always celebrated Midwinter on 21 June. It marks the midpoint of a long period of isolation, so from then onwards the light will begin to return and the countdown of the days can begin.
This is probably the most international holiday in the world, celebrated equally by Australians, Japanese, Russians, Americans, French, Poles, and all the many other nationalities with stations in the Antarctic. Whatever their nation's politics, whatever their religion. Goodwill messages are exchanged by radio, there are parties, dinners and other celebrations. In the "old" days before satellite communications, there often were "radio blackouts" for some time.....
And, on their return, former expeditioners continue to celebrate at their reunions every Midwinter.Related to:
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Mawson Midwinter Revisited - 40 years on
I never cease to be amazed how time flies by. There we were at Mawson celebrating Midwinter's Day - suddenly fast forward and it was time for our 40th anniversary Midwinter's Day celebrations, held in Sydney. We had a good evening in conjunction with the Midwinter Dinner, convened by the club for former expeditioners (of all years). Twelve from the Mawson 1966 expedition attended, of the original 26 (23 left) and there were messages from several who couldn't make it. Next day we had a somewhat less formal and very enjoyable lunch at the house of one of our group. Being together for the winter in Antarctica builds strong bonds and, as far as I know, former expeditioners from all countries hold reunions worldwide.
Needless to say, with a glass or two of beer or red wine, the waves became higher, the winds stronger, the cold colder, and the tales generally taller!Related to:
- Historical Travel
Cold acclimatisation tests
Our doctor in 1966 had a research project into cold acclimatisation. This involved the 'willing co-operation' of a group of 'volunteers'. About once a month while indoors, we would be given a sheet to list what we were wearing and whether we felt cold/warm/comfortable. Then we were allowed to put on whatever seemed appropriate and were expected to stand around outdoors in a group for about ten minutes - part of the process involved watching someone else to see if they developed frostbite on their face (frost-bite on cheekbones is quite common). I do not have any idea whether these activities achieved anything, but it helped fill in the time! This photo shows such a group standing around near a small anemometer which is measuring the average windspeed.
I should explain about the ropes in the photo. Those are called 'blizzard lines' and are there to follow during blizzards. You inch along them in the wind, holding tightly and proceeding hand-over hand. They help prevent being blown over and also help to find your way when everything beyond arm's length has disappeared in a white blast of blown snow. Needless to say, they are left in place permanently!Related to:
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The official 'group photo'
Every year, at every Australian station, an 'official group photograph' would be taken. Copies would be sent back to the head office in Australia and also hung on the walls of the stations. Of course, everyone would take their cameras and tripods, so in practice a great many photos were taken and the process took quite a while - this is my photo of the event.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mawson,'Aurora', the journal for former ANARE expeditioners, published all the group photos taken over the years. It was interesting to see the changing photographic style. The initial photographs were very formal, with everyone wearing jackets and ties and looking very rigid. In 1966, we all travelled a little inland from the station and took the photo on the blue ice of the plateau. Not surprisingly, a couple of the dogs managed to include themselves - something which is no longer possible. More recent photographs take the informal style somewhat further....
It's interesting that there is somewhat more hair and less silver than in the reunion photo in the tip above!
The Australian antarctic stations have a long and glorious history of 'home brewing': mainly beer, though we put together a few other concoctions from time to time. During my visit to Macquarie Island in late 2005, I was pleased to find that this tradition is being continued (and, from a brief tasting, to confirm that the standard is being maintained). We made and consumed a goodly supply of 'homers' at Mawson in 1966 and generally considered it preferable to the commercial beer which was part of our rations. These special beer labels were made purely for what would now be called 'promotional purposes', normally the only label was the date of manufacture on the bottle top.
During my absence on the Spring Trip (see 'off the beaten path' tips) a Russian aircraft landed and stayed overnight. I understand there was quite a party and several of our members suffered as a result of drinking the Russian 'aeroplane whisky' - curiously, it seems the Russians were damaged by our home brew. Maybe we'd become immune to it!Related to:
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Get your passport stamped
At Port Lockroy there is a British scientific station with a small post office in operation during the summer months. While the ship was anchored off the island for landings, two of the personnel came on board to offer a postal service to passengers. Any postcards we’d written on the trip could be handed over to be stamped and franked – the cost for this service was $1 which included a donation to the conservation work in progress there. The stamps were genuine ones issued by the British Antarctic Territory, as was the frank. This is the only time we’ve ever sent ourselves a postcard while on holiday!
Another service on offer was the possibility to get your passport stamped with the British Antarctic Territory stamp – this has no value in terms of customs or immigration, but is a fantastic souvenir to have in your passport.
I've scanned the postcard and passport so do enlarge these photos for a better look.Related to:
The daily 'water run' - 1966
Mawson's water supply in 1966 was provided by a large tank alongside the kitchen, which was filled with snow blocks from a large drift outside. Every day, as people finished their lunch, they would wander outside and begin to dig snow and place it in the melter. We had a Japanese glaciologist who was fascinated by the very casual approach we Australians took to this job: he commented in a magazine article after our return that the Japanese would have taken an organised group approach to it. Of course, as these things go, occasionally some people were considered not to have pulled their weight - we taught our glaciologist friend to apply to them the good Aussie term 'bloody bludgers'. His English was much worse when he returned than when he went south with us! :-)
My apologies for the quality of the photo, it was never good and has become worse with age and scratches.Related to:
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History of McMurdo Scientific Station
McMurdo Station is the largest U.S. research facility in Antarctica. It is located on the southern tip of Ross Island and lies 2,415 miles south of Christchurch, New Zealand and 850 miles north of the South Pole.
The National Science Foundation (NSF), through the United States Antarcic Program (USAP), coordinates U.S. scientific research in the Antarctic. Research performed in land around McMurdo includes marine and terrestrial biology, biomedicine, geology and geophysics, glaciology and glacial geology, meteorology, aeronomy, and upper atmospheric physics.
During the austral summer the population of scientists and support personnel at McMurdo often exceeds 1,100 people. In the austral winter, the population drops to roughly 250 people.
McMurdo Station was constructed by the United States in 1955-56 as part of its Operation Deep Freeze series of expeditions
UPDATE TO TATOO****
My husband (left) drew a "Puckered Penguin" tatoo on his buddy, Ed Wentling, with a magic marker. They had some fun...and some booze. :-) That was in 1962-1963.
*** Thanks to a VT connection, my husband has found his friend after 45 years Many thanks to "demonia" of Lynnfield, Mass. for the help in locating Ed. We all had some fun doing it.
I can't tell you how excited these guys were to be reunited after so many years. Ed and his wife drove up from Pennsylvania for a few days and Ed insisted on the 2nd photo in my tip. I told them they were going on VT and around the world with it. They didn't care. They were absolutely joyous. They are now emailing and phoning one another...visiting when possible. The guys traded sea stories, drank beer, and visited their old haunts down near Quonset Naval Air Station (now closed) where they were stationed in the early 60's.
THEY ARE A PIECE OF WORK, AREN'T THEY?Related to:
- Beer Tasting
As the purist continent on earth, there are strict policies regarding waste material here in Antarctica.
EVERY piece of material that is brought here, is also taken away when it becomes waste. That's right, no dump sites at all, everything gets sent off the continent.
Tenants are requested to sort every material into provides bins.
Christmas Carols on HF Frequency
On Christmas Day, the McMurdo Choir got together in 'MAC Center' to transmit Christmas Carols over the HF frequencies to all of the remote outposts spread across the continent.
This event put me more in the Christmas Spirit than the Christmas Party did.....
how will the stones get to the penguins' nests
All of the small stones in and around of the penguin-nests are needed in order to store the warmth and also to reflect at least a bit of the rare sunshine and so the male penguin will take stones maybe from a beach, put it in his mouth and will carry it to the nest of his favorite "significant other"
When you watch them for a longer time you will also see, that some of them will go "the easy way" of just pinching the precious stones from other nests !Related to:
did you ever see blue snow ?
Here in the Antarctic you will see blue snow at many places and the explanation of our tourguides of the bark Europa was, that the snow gets a different color, when the density of the snow and frozen water is different. ( so it is eighter more fluffy or more pressed togeather)
At first I had the feeling it has something to do with the reflections of the bright sunlight, but finally I saw that these extra-blue parts in the snow and glaciers will have exactely the same color when it is cloudy and even after sundown,like the one on my main picture, where my brother set his tripod into the snow and then this kind of blue was shining through the snow.Related to:
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Here are some links I found while researching Antarctica before my trip:
strange patterns around the penguin-nests
There are always some strange patterns of white stripes covering the ground around the nests of penguins: it is the penguin-poo coming from the female while breeding her eggs. she turnes around in a cercle, when slightly changing position every now and then and it was funny for me to be able to watch a penguin standing up and carefully turning her 2 eggs around a bit, before moving a few stones a bit and sitting down again to continue breeding.
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