Midwinter Madness a Big Celebration in Antarctica
Midwinter or Winter Solstice in Antarctica would have to be the most celebrated event of the year. It is a long standing tradition from the very early expeditions to Antarctica. Mawson, Shackleton, Amundsen and Scott are just a few famous names of early explorers to Antarctica and there are numerous stories of festivities and celebration to mark the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere and Antarctica.
The Winter Solstice or Midwinters day has become such an important day on the Antarctic calender because it marks the shortest day of the year. It falls around the 20th, 21st or 22nd of June depending on the year.
Why is Midwinter Such an Important Day?
Because after Midwinters day in Antarctica the daylight hours start to get longer and it’s a downhill run toward summer, more daylight, warmer days and eventually your trip home. Midwinter and Midsummer soltice have long been a big event in some cultures.
In some parts of the Antarctic Continent – south of the Antarctic Circle, which is 66° 33′ 44″ latitude south of the equator, they experience at least one day; 24hours of complete darkness in winter and one day; 24 hours of complete daylight in summer. The further south you go the more days of complete daylight or darkness, until you get to the geographical South Pole where they experience 6 months of dark and 6 months of daylight.
It is therefore no wonder that the Midwinter Solstice day is such a big event. For expeditioners that work and live in Antarctica over the winter period, the Midwinter Solstice marks the halfway mark of their stay in one of the most inhospitable environments in the world, however it is also one of the most spectacular as well. From that day on the days get noticeably longer and warmer, and your trip home gets closer.
Midwinter Celebrations in Antarctica
The celebrations kick of first thing in the morning with a Champagne Breakfast then shortly after a quick dip in a hole in the sea ice (Icy Dip) cut out the day before. It s a long standing tradition to take a dip in the frozen sea and it is a must do item on the bucket list if you are in Antarctica for the celebration.
After the dip it’s time to get the blood flowing again and recover, then its a casual but elaborate feast for lunch. Festivities follow the lunch until it is time for the formal Midwinter Dinner. During the first half of the year there is usually preparations for the dinner, one of those is usually a photographic competition to select the images to be used for the Midwinter Menu, which is also a keep sake “souvenir” for the participants. The menu’s are hand made and bound by what ever means are at your disposal. Prior to computers and printers the menus would be patiently crafted in the photographic lab on station.
The station chef goes to enormous lengths for providing the finest cuisine and ambience, usually decorating the dining area with ice carvings and an immaculate set table, lined with the custom made menus at each placing. The winter staff also busily decorate the dining room with an array of global flags and Antarctic paraphernalia.
After an exemplary dinner with numerous toasts and after dinner drinks it’s off for the entertainment of the night. This is where the locals get to show off their talents, with singing, music, plays even shadow puppet shows and poem readings. The shows are organised and rehearsed (in some cases) during the first half of the year in prep for the BIG NIGHT – there is no limit to the talent!
The next day is then a recovery day and with new spirit everyone looks forward to getting more sunlight and the days slowly warming up as we head toward summer and eventually – home!
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