16 June, 2015

Midwinter Celebrations in Antarctica

This week staff at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are celebrating Midwinter’s Day in Antarctica. In a tradition which began in the days of Captain Scott the event marks the shortest, and darkest, day of the year. This year’s science and support teams will brave the elements for a long distance run (weather permitting) followed by a festive meal and exchange of gifts that the team members have made for one another. A special highlight is the annual Midwinter broadcast on the BBC’s World Service which includes messages from loved ones.

This year’s broadcast on the World Service will be aired at 21:30 GMT on Sunday 21 June and lasts for half an hour. It contains greetings from families, work colleagues and several celebrities.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has sent a message of support.

In her own message to staff BAS Director, Jane Francis, said:

“I know you are sitting there in the cold and dark, but you play a really vital part in the amazing science that BAS does.

“The measurements that you are making down in Antarctica, even through the winter, play a really key part in the evidence we are collecting to figure out how Antarctica is responding to climate change. And this is really important, because what happens in Antarctica affects the rest of the world.”

BAS has four stations which it operates over the winter months; Bird Island, Kind Edward Point, Rothera and Halley. There are currently 42 staff based at these stations. They include scientists, electricians, plumbers, chefs and doctors.

Tom Welsh, Station Leader at the BAS Halley Research Station, said:

“Midwinter’s day at Halley is 101 days after we began the adventure of our lives; 13 men and women from widely ranging backgrounds set to endure 105 days of darkness, temperatures below −50 degrees centigrade and winds in excess of 60 knots.

“Midwinter serves as a fantastic way to look back on and celebrate our achievements so far and the wonderful friendships that have developed, whilst also looking forward to the exciting events still to come. We plan to spend our winter solstice enjoying a formal dinner, presenting hand crafted gifts to each other and to listen to the BBC World Service radio broadcast. The radio broadcast will contain loving messages from friends and family at home, something we are all very much looking forward to and that means an awful lot to us.

“Antarctic exploration has a proud and impressive history, we plan to raise a toast to the explorers and scientists of the past, present day and to those of the future.”

If you wish to tweet greetings to those working in Antarctica then please use #BASmidwinter.