20 June, 2012

Bransfield House, Rothera Research Station, Rothera Point, Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctica celebrating Midwinter’s Day

A hundred years ago Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team celebrated Midwinter in Antarctica (known as Midsummer’s Day in the UK) — a tradition that continues strongly today within the Antarctic community.

This week, Antarctic winterers from over 30 nations will celebrate the shortest day in Antarctica after which the days start to slowly get longer and lighter. For many winterers, this will come as a relief as they have endured freezing temperatures as cold as −30°C, extremely high winds and nearly permanent darkness as the Sun has not risen from the horizon since mid May.

Traditional greetings and photographs are being shared between the research stations on the frozen continent and British Antarctic Survey staff will mark the day by exchanging handmade presents with their fellow winterers. Midwinter’s Day is the equivalent of Christmas Day for many as Christmas is typically just another working day during the very short summer season.

Usually Midwinter’s Day falls on 21st June, but because 2012 is a leap year, it will occur on the 20th June. The last time this happened was more than 30 years ago in 1975. Since it takes the Earth 365.25 days to orbit the Sun, every four years an extra day is added in February to prevent a gradual drift of date through the seasons.

There’s only another month or so to go for the Antarctic winterers before they’ll get to see the sun again, so the countdown is on!