And lo it did come to pass that the midwinters celebrations did arrive with much jolliness…and stupidity, and food, and wine and beer and men dressing up as women and all of the other usual things that come with this particular event down here in the Wild & bizarre South..
The past couple of weeks have seen normal work disappear out of the window for the majority of the time with all focus being on preparation and completion of the tasks for the Winter Solstice. We had the added complexity of being requested by Kingston to film the midwinter swim early so that they were able to submit it to the media agencies and have the event transmitted across the Australian news networks on midwinters day itself giving the impression that it was recorded on the same day. This meant doing two swims, one on the Tuesday prior and then one on the Saturday itself, basically everyone had a choice of what day they wanted to swim, they could either do it for the media attention or for the tradition…..Or if you’re like me you have the choice of not doing it at all, whilst I’m happy to get stuck in to most things I find the idea of throwing myself in glacial water a bit daft and I’ve no need to prove a point on that front having spent most of my twenties jumping in and out of freezing rapids in different parts of the world, for me the decision was easy, no thanks.
I had to look after the ‘safety’ side of things in regards to the swim, the AAD has some SOPs (Standard operating procedures) we’re to follow for these things so I had to do my duty and read up on these. Each swimmer was required to attend a briefing from the doctor about cold water immersion and the effects on the heart etc, when swimming they also had to wear a harness and rope in case they disappeared under the shelf and needed pulling back towards the hole (unlikely but obviously the results of that happening would be pretty bad!) – Swimmers also needed to be wearing shoes and gloves so as not to be touching anything with exposed skin (i.e. the ladder) which would also result in a bad day. I was to advise swimmers to avoid getting their head submersed when they jump in in case of a shock intake of breath which turns out to be some of Prydz Bay’s finest sea water…..Some managed this, some didn’t, nobody died, that’s the way it goes 🙂
Anyway, the clips were transmitted online all over Aus by numerous media outlets and even stretched to the UK where my face appeared on the Daily Mail……Hopefully that’s the closest I will ever have my face to Kim K’s enormous backside but you never know what the future holds.
In terms of the work that was carried last week out there was a hole to dig for the ‘pool’ (A metre of ice had to be dug through to reach the sea water below) and this was repeated twice daily to ensure that the ice didn’t re-freeze before each swim event. There was also a ‘hot tub’ created up near the LQ so that people could take a swim of a slightly less Baltic nature, this was kept warm by our trades team and was filled with snow to slowly heat, thaw and melt to create a pool worthy of sitting and drinking beer in – I will say that I spent a couple of occasions in the hot tub and it was superb considering the location and the effort required to keep it warm. The dash from the tub out and back into the LQ cold porch was interesting though not actually too bad, just don’t let your bare skin touch anything or it will stick and people will laugh at you.
There was lots of food preparation with double slushies working through the week to get everything ready, tradition also dictates that everyone made a ‘handmade’ gift to hand out on the day, I have to say that some of these were amazing (the one I made was dreadful and I now feel guilty) – There were other time consuming activities such as people rehearsing for ‘plays’ and my own personal one was to jointly create and run a ‘live radio show’ on the evening with both Corey and Paul, it was only a couple of hours long but took most of the week in planning and preparing music for a quiz, it was a very busy time.
Luckily it was a three day weekend and we’ve all had the Monday off otherwise I think we’d all be shattered at work today, it was a good time, everyone was in a really good mood (which is rare at the moment, we all have our down days due to the darkness and isolation) and there was a general ‘vibe’ similar to that of Christmas day.
Some pics of it all
“So what now” is probably a bizarre question, we’ve made it to the penultimate part of Winter and now the Summer (and the sun) is slowly going to come back to us, the days will get longer, the temperatures will gradually increase, the wildlife will return and Davis station will start to resemble what it was for me when I first stepped off the ship back in November of last year. I find myself now questioning what is next to ‘achieve’ here. I’ve always been like that with anything in life, once I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in one place or discipline I move on and try to keep doing new things and seeing new places. I have applied to stay on for next Summer either here or at one of the other stations under both my preferred comms role or in other positions that I’m capable of – Obviously I have to go home at some point, there’s only so much you can stretch your family in terms of being away and I reckon an additional summer is probably the limit of that.
Even though there’s still at least five months left for me here I already find myself questioning my ability to be able to settle back into ‘normal’ society and work after my time in Antarctica. I’ve never particularly been one for the office and corporate environments though some are notably better than others, some people seem so dead and lifeless in an office, like they’ve had a part of their sole removed which they traded for a salary that pays for their house, you have to wonder whether these people ever remember that they were once a child who enjoyed themselves and was excited about life. I need to try and find employment that keeps that life spark ticking over when I get back to the mainland, yes money is a requirement but I think job satisfaction is way more important as ultimately you bring that attitude home with you at the end of the week and that propagates into your home life too.
So if anyone has got a job for a slightly pasty, well travelled, outdoor equipped IT engineer / project manager then let me know…..Oh yep, you’re right, I’m in that job already!…..And that would be the truth, this job has drawn on every skill I’ve ever learnt whether it be outdoor education, communication, pacification, motivation, creativity, determination etc etc – We are a weird bunch down here but boy do we expend a lot of energy…..:-)