Antarctica Local Custom Tips by tiabunna Top 5 Page for this destination
Antarctica Local Customs: 62 reviews and 94 photos
Cold acclimatisation tests, Mawson 1966
Our doctor in 1966 had a research project into cold acclimatisation. This involved the 'willing co-operation' of a group of 'volunteers'. About once a month while indoors, we would be given a sheet to list what we were wearing and whether we felt cold/warm/comfortable. Then we were allowed to put on whatever seemed appropriate and were expected to stand around outdoors in a group for about ten minutes - part of the process involved watching someone else to see if they developed frostbite on their face (frost-bite on cheekbones is quite common). I do not have any idea whether these activities achieved anything, but it helped fill in the time! This photo shows such a group standing around near a small anemometer which is measuring the average windspeed.
I should explain about the ropes in the photo. Those are called 'blizzard lines' and are there to follow during blizzards. You inch along them in the wind, holding tightly and proceeding hand-over hand. They help prevent being blown over and also help to find your way when everything beyond arm's length has disappeared in a white blast of blown snow. Needless to say, they are left in place permanently!
Digging snow for the kitchen, Mawson 1966
Mawson's water supply in 1966 was provided by a large tank alongside the kitchen, which was filled with snow blocks from a large drift outside. Every day, as people finished their lunch, they would wander outside and begin to dig snow and place it in the melter. We had a Japanese glaciologist who was fascinated by the very casual approach we Australians took to this job: he commented in a magazine article after our return that the Japanese would have taken an organised group approach to it. Of course, as these things go, occasionally some people were considered not to have pulled their weight - we taught our glaciologist friend to apply to them the good Aussie term 'bloody bludgers'. His English was much worse when he returned than when he went south with us! :-)
My apologies for the quality of the photo, it was never good and has become worse with age and scratches.
Home brew beer, Mawson 1966
The Australian antarctic stations have a long and glorious history of 'home brewing': mainly beer, though we put together a few other concoctions from time to time. During my visit to Macquarie Island in late 2005, I was pleased to find that this tradition is being continued (and, from a brief tasting, to confirm that the standard is being maintained). We made and consumed a goodly supply of 'homers' at Mawson in 1966 and generally considered it preferable to the commercial beer which was part of our rations. These special beer labels were made purely for what would now be called 'promotional purposes', normally the only label was the date of manufacture on the bottle top.
During my absence on the Spring Trip (see 'off the beaten path' tips) a Russian aircraft landed and stayed overnight. I understand there was quite a party and several of our members suffered as a result of drinking the Russian 'aeroplane whisky' - curiously, it seems the Russians were damaged by our home brew. Maybe we'd become immune to it!
Mawson 1966 expedition
Every year, at every Australian station, an 'official group photograph' would be taken. Copies would be sent back to the head office in Australia and also hung on the walls of the stations. Of course, everyone would take their cameras and tripods, so in practice a great many photos were taken and the process took quite a while - this is my photo of the event.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mawson,'Aurora', the journal for former ANARE expeditioners, published all the group photos taken over the years. It was interesting to see the changing photographic style. The initial photographs were very formal, with everyone wearing jackets and ties and looking very rigid. In 1966, we all travelled a little inland from the station and took the photo on the blue ice of the plateau. Not surprisingly, a couple of the dogs managed to include themselves - something which is no longer possible. More recent photographs take the informal style somewhat further....
It's interesting that there is somewhat more hair and less silver than in the reunion photo in the tip above!
Mawson 1966 expedition - 40 years on
I never cease to be amazed how time flies by. There we were at Mawson celebrating Midwinter's Day - suddenly fast forward and it was time for our 40th anniversary Midwinter's Day celebrations, held in Sydney. We had a good evening in conjunction with the Midwinter Dinner, convened by the club for former expeditioners (of all years). Twelve from the Mawson 1966 expedition attended, of the original 26 (23 left) and there were messages from several who couldn't make it. Next day we had a somewhat less formal and very enjoyable lunch at the house of one of our group. Being together for the winter in Antarctica builds strong bonds and, as far as I know, former expeditioners from all countries hold reunions worldwide.
Needless to say, with a glass or two of beer or red wine, the waves became higher, the winds stronger, the cold colder, and the tales generally taller!
"Fireworks" - gelignite and fuel on the sea ice
Going back to the "heroic" era of Shackleton, Mawson and Scott, antarctic expeditions have always celebrated Midwinter on 21 June. It marks the midpoint of a long period of isolation, so from then onwards the light will begin to return and the countdown of the days can begin.
This is probably the most international holiday in the world, celebrated equally by Australians, Japanese, Russians, Americans, French, Poles, and all the many other nationalities with stations in the Antarctic. Whatever their nation's politics, whatever their religion. Goodwill messages are exchanged by radio, there are parties, dinners and other celebrations. In the "old" days before satellite communications, there often were "radio blackouts" for some time.....
And, on their return, former expeditioners continue to celebrate at their reunions every Midwinter.
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