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  • Midwinter

    We celebrated Midwinter today, "today" being a relative thing . . . and it's less than two months to the next sunrise on Ross Island.

    Happy midwinter to any other Antarcticans out there!

  • #2
    Re: Midwinter

    Happy Midwinter Alan and to anyone else in Antarctica.

    I trust you are eating the traditional amounts of exotic fare and entertaining yourselves in a range of ways. Do you give midwinter presents on American bases?


    • #3
      Re: Midwinter

      I don't know of any tradition of gift-giving for Midwinter at American stations, but I have heard that there were formerly air drops at midwinter at McMurdo and South Pole stations. Those have been discontinued.

      I suppose gift-giving would make more sense at smaller stations, but we have 153 people at McMurdo this year, and 43 at Pole - that's a lot of people to get gifts for.

      However, as you say we had some exotic fare for dinner, people put on their best clothes, and most of the Kiwis from Scott Base came over for a visit, and afterwards those who wanted went and drank too much. All in all it was a good day.



      • #4
        Re: Midwinter

        Sad to hear that the air-drops have stopped, I heard about those and thought they must be such a morale booster.

        Midwinter-gifts at UK stations is a long tradition, each base member makes one midwinter present in the weeks before the day. They are then wrapped anonamously and the base compliment take it in turns to select one from the pile starting with the youngest base-member to the oldest. Usually some momento of Antarctica, whale bone was a popular material on Signy where I was due to it's fairly commonplace availablity. I can see how it wouldn't work so well on a larger station though, I wintered with 14, then 13 men in my 2 winters.

        We also had a whole week off rather than just a day - manly outdoor fun of various types with Midwinters Day as the highlight. Happy days!


        • #5
          Re: Midwinter

          It would be interesting to some of us that never had a chance to be there... to tell us some stories on how you people spend time wintering...


          • #6
            Re: Midwinter

            In the modern age, wintering isn't so bad. Most stations have internet, though some (such as South Pole) don't have internet full time. (At present, I think they're getting 9 hours per day.) But there are lots of books and movies, plus whatever activities people come up with. Here at McMurdo we have 153 people this year, plus there are 26 Kiwis two miles away at Scott Base, so there are plenty of people to socialize with (as opposed to some smaller bases, such as those on some subantarctic islands, that only have 4 or 5 winterers). McMurdo Station and Scott Base also get some television reception. Many stations also have a bar, gymnasiums (or at least some exercise equipment), and assorted other amenities.

            As for activities . . . well, on July 4th (the day that the British celebrate getting shed of the 13 colonies) we had a sort of traditional fair, with terribly delicious and unhealthy food (funnel cakes, corn dogs, chili), games, and a dunking booth. Naturally, it was held indoors. My favorite game this year (to watch, not participate) was human jenga, in which participants stacked wooden boxes ten high in a single column, standing on the boxes themselves while setting the next box on top. They competed on time, and had a safety harness so they wouldn't fall, but still quite a feat.

            We had a mid-winter run a couple weeks ago. I don't know who's ordering the T-shirts, but the 2008 shirts were labelled 2009, and the 2009 shirts are labelled "Winter 2009-2010". Still, it's nice that they gave us T-shirts for participating.

            I'm sure there are other things going on too, but I don't keep up on everything, and different nations and stations have their own traditions. One thing that is certain, however, is that there are some odd traditions down here, dating back to the first expeditions.


            • #7
              Re: Midwinter

              ummmm, odd... what is odd today?

              I mean, I enjoy European winter when I can take a walk through fog more dense than milk, visibility just enough to see my feet, does that make me... half insane?


              • #8
                Re: Midwinter

                Visibility enough to see your feet? What's the problem?

                Now, what's really cool is when you get a whiteout, where the sunlight is diffused so that the light is coming from all directions, meaning that there are no shadows. Now in places with lots of color this might not mean much, but when we had partial whiteout conditions at the South Pole station one day, I found myself able to clearly see the elevated station about a mile away, but I had to be very careful when walking that I didn't step into a hole that I couldn't see.