There are a few days on the summer calendar down in Antarctica that everyone looks forward to. Australia Day (Jan 26th) is very high on the list. Planning and preparations for the Australia Day celebration begin on station as soon as the new year starts, including important considerations such as, who is going to work the BBQ, setting up the cricket pitch and ensuring there is adequate liquid refreshment for the day’s activities.
Last year we started our Australia Day celebration the night before with the band playing a huge selection of songs that we had spent the bulk of the summer practicing, including the Aussie favourites “Land Down Under” and “Khe Sahn”. We also had a rousing rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” by our Russian friends who had turned up for the evening.
In the morning we started with brunch in the mess and many expeditioners took the opportunity to dress up in their most patriotic Australian outfits, be it sporting colours, surf lifesaving attire, or the good old Australian flag. After brunch the spit roast was fired up to cook the lamb for dinner, while others anxiously prepared for one of the highlights of the summer season, the Australia Day swim.
Last year the sea ice was still present in the bay when Australia Day rolled around so the tradies went to work a few days earlier to ensure that there was adequate room in the tide crack for swimming to occur. Having sea ice around at this time of year is definitely unusual and made the water appear even more cold and uninviting. To make matters worse, a fresh layer of 1cm thick ice had formed overnight on the surface of our swimming hole and we had to break it up before we could enter. This didn’t deter a number of us from taking the plunge and we all ran screaming into the freezing water for the quickest ‘swim’ in history and then raced back up the hill to defrost in the spa. To explain what being in freezing cold water is like, its not exactly cold you feel, more like pins and needles as the cold shocks your skin.
After the swim we gathered down on the beach once again for the annual cricket match. Two teams battled it out while spectators stood in the grandstand made up of half-height shipping containers and a group of elephant seals dozed near the water’s edge. Definitely an unusual sight at a game of cricket.
Back up at the LQ the sound system had been moved out onto the deck, along with couches and an ample supply of cold beer, so that we could listen to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown while enjoying the beautiful sunny day. The BBQs were fired up and we were treated to a big BBQ dinner, which capped off an excellent day.