Australians expeditioning in Antarctica have plunged into a pool cut into the sea ice to celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
The swimmers stripped down to celebrate midwinter day, the most anticipated occasion on the Antarctic calendar, with the temperature around minus 22 degrees and the water almost minus 2 degrees.
“Swimming in Antarctica’s below freezing waters is something of a mad tradition, but our hardy expeditioners look forward to it, with 21 of the 26 people on station brave enough to take an icy dip this year,” says Casey Station leader, Rebecca Jeffcoat.
“Midwinter day is really important in Antarctica because it marks the halfway point of our year here on the ice and it means the sun will spend slightly longer in the sky each day.”
Taking the plunge:
Midwinter celebrations at Australia’s three Antarctic research stations and sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island include a feast, exchange of handmade gifts, midwinter play and messages from home.
Celebrations also take place at the Division’s headquarters in Tasmania. There are 75 expeditioners currently living and working in Antarctica as part of the Australian Antarctic Program.
“The environment is spectacular and harsh, and we experience the most incredible range of conditions, from below freezing blizzards to auroras, or the midwinter twilight as the sun skims the horizon,” says Jeffcoat, who is experiencing her first Antarctic winter.
“It is challenging being so far from family and friends, but we have built a really close knit community of friends on station that we’ll likely have for the rest of our lives as we’ve shared this great experience together.
“We’re all really proud to be counted as one of the small number or people who have been lucky enough to winter in Antarctica, keeping the station running through the long cold months so we can then support the science of the Australian Antarctic Program.”
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