Saturday, June 16, 2007

Midwinter Dinner in Antarctica

Around the time of the Winter Soltice, June 21st, Midwinter is traditionally celebrated in Antarctica with a feast and high spirits because we've reached the halfway point of the season. We're on the downhill slope. 24 hour darkness is replaced by the first sunrise in late August, and 2 or 3 flights bring in freshies and mail. Midwinter greetings are emailed to each other from remote stations representing over twenty countries.

The party includes dinner, cocktails, dancing and donning our "formal attire"...using the term loosely, it can be the little black dress, 3-piece suit, jeans and a tie, or a plethera of ties found in Skua Central* sewn together to make a dress, like our friend Sandwich* wore last night. Some women take their sarrongs from their backpack (or off the wall where hanging as room decor) and turn them into dresses. Men might sport kilts...even a camouflage kilt. The Kiwis from over the hill at Scott Base join in the celebration. Seeing fellow winterovers dressed in something other than Carhart's or Big Red* is entertaining. Last night's celebration was the best time I've had in five Midwinters!

Volunteers transformed the galley. White tablecloths in tow, they moved and set tables, and covered chairs in white sheets tied in a knot at the back. Faux green vines, plastic trees and fake flowers skua'd from around the station gave the dining area ambiance. Ice block centerpieces on every table held tealights. Helping with meal preparation in the kitchen, I felt the hustle bustle energy of Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner. This morning at brunch, the galley was back to its usual setup, thanks to volunteers. Only Nathan's greenish face, Seth's swollen left thumb, the I-can't-believe-I-said/did-that chatter, and frequent bursts of laughter were clues to the previous night's gala. We threw ourselves an excellent party.

Since my last post, I knitted a hats, scarves, socks and finished a doll but not the blue sweater. I'm a procrastinator. The community is currently working on the WUA (Warm Up America) blocks for the 3rd annual charity afghan and I keep getting distracted by trying new stitches. So far, after only a couple of weeks, there are 43 squares pinned to the bulletin board on Highway One!* I think this year's knitters/crocheters may produce enough squares to make two blankets! We are using Red Heart yarn in mostly blues and greens purchased by Chandra and me and some folks are supplementing with their own colors.

It's interesting that half the people (50% reduced winter staff) are more productive and more eager to volunteer this season than I've seen in all the winters with twice as many folks.

Ice Slang:

* Skua is a noun, a verb and the name of an Antarctic bird. Skua is one person's junk and another's treasure. Recycling, reusing is what skua is all about.

* aka Allie Barden in the northern hemisphere. See

* Big Red is the red colored, really warm, down parka issued to employees and scientists in the United States Antarctic Program (USAP).

* Highway One is the main hallway in building 155 where administrative offices, the barber shop, the computer kiosk, and the galley are located. There are dorm rooms on the 2nd floor.

1 comment:

Alessia Maggi said...

It's great to hear about your Midwinter festivities.

Happy Midwinter to all the over-wintering team, and best wishes from a lowly summer campaigner.