Hundreds of scientists and staff across the breadth of Antarctica – along with their family and friends back home – will today celebrate Midwinter’s Day – the day that heralds the sun’s journey back towards the Antarctic sky.
The 21st June is always a special day for those hardy souls over-wintering in Antarctica, akin to Christmas Day in the rest of the world. Special food is prepared, gifts are exchanged, and (most) work duties are suspended for the day.
Midwinter’s Day is a traditional celebration dating back to the earliest explorers of the white continent – much of which is in 24-hour darkness at this time of year. It marks the moment when the Sun is furthest below the horizon, and will begin to draw closer again.
Prime Minister Theresa May has sent a message of support to all British Antarctic Survey staff wintering in Antarctica.
BAS currently has staff spending winter at Rothera Reseach Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Georgia locations Bird Island and King Edward Point. Station leaders will traditionally rise early and cook breakfast for their teams, before swapping gifts that people have started making for each other weeks beforehand in the dark winter. These often include pieces of woodwork or handicrafts.
An essential and much-loved part of Midwinter’s Day is the BBC World Service Midwinter broadcast, presented by singer and BBC6 Music DJ Cerys Mathews, and includes messages from winterers’ families.
At Rothera Research Station this Midwinter, staff will be served tea or coffee in bed, followed by the traditional exchange of gifts. After the Midwinter Feast, the team will wrap up warm to trek over to the Air Tower, where they will tune into the World Service.
The broadcast can be heard on the following shortwave frequencies at 21:30 GMT, Thursday June 21st:
9890 kHz, Woofferton 182 deg
5985 kHz, Wofferton 184 deg
7360 kHz, Ascension 207 deg
The programme will also be available via the link below from 21:30 GMT on the 21st June https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06blwrc