The middle of Winter. And the middle of all this.
Midwinter is the queen celebration in Antarctica and none can even raise comparisons. As I’ve stated here, Christmas is whenever one can, New Year’s goes a bit on the run (there’s no postponing on this one I’m afraid) and Easter is just too depressing for the type of environment that we create in Winter.
But when June 21st arrives, the station stops. Not literally since we still need to be aware of any urgent issue but the typical, “9 to 5h” jobs, those get suspended for the whole week.
Midwinter week by itself doesn’t have a specific tradition attached to it, apart from the dinner on the 21st. The week functions a bit like an holiday one. And how do we need it by then. Yes, its true that we live in a quasi autonomous station, with a comfort level uncommon for such harsh place, but we have to take into account that this is our first break since we got here. As with many things, life around here is different in what vacations are regarded. Since we sleep in the same building where we work too and there’s nothing beyond the station besides a slow death by hypothermia, there’s no much sense in us having vacation days. Besides, our work here us so unusual that the concept is not even applicable. It makes no sense whatsoever to lose all scientific data and put the station at risk just because the generator mechanic is on holiday in his pit room and can only fix the things next Monday. It doesn’t work like that and that’s why this week ends up being a sort of “conditional” holiday. If all systems on station are doing good, awesome. Take a deserving break and go watch some movies on the sofa. But if not, then bummer, its working time man.
The important about this week was to get our rest right and by God we took it seriously! With calm weather but very, very cold, we only venture outside if there was a real need for it. Most folks spent that week sleeping or going through movies and series marathons in the bar TV.
In the weekend prior to Midwinter we went through with another emerging tradition around these parts: the Pub Crawl. As the name implies, there were a series of makeshift Pubs to which we should crawl to. Ours was quite peaceful but extremely fun. It was also one of those nights were nothing went wrong, which allowed the whole wintering team to stay up quite late due to… reasons…
But where did we got enough Pubs to justify staying up so late? To the same place where we get most stuff in Antarctica. Since the coverage of night entertainment in Antarctica is… well… null, we had to create the Pubs by ourselves, something that we were used to since day 1.
And that’s how all those mini bars opened up for a night throughout the whole station: scotch served in syringes in the medical office, gourmet cocktails in ice cups in the kitchen by our chef, beer and ale trough a sewer pipe served by our plumber or a bar assembled on the back of a parked sno-cat in the garage, courtesy of our vehicle mechanic were some of the genius ideas that got out that night.
In 2016 the 21st of June landed on a Tuesday. But it was so dark and cold outside that it didn’t really matter that it was the beginning of a week. We also didn’t have any TV or a functioning society to give importance to the matter. Its a special ceremony but mainly because it is just ours and for an hand full of humans that live in the continent around this time.
With a professional chef cooking our food, we were counting on a meal worth of a prince that night. I was wrong… The night wasn’t even halfway through and almost everyone was presenting serious trouble in breathing and we almost could hear the buttons on every waist giving up.
The meal was meant for an Emperor, in quality and quantity. It was ridiculous and showcased perfectly the quality of the professionals that look for this kind of adventures. Desserts alone were about three or four… I stopped counting when someone gave me a prawn inside a puffy pastry envelope for appetizer.
And the impressive about it is that all of it was prepared with “standardized” ingredients, mostly frozen or canned. The station is supplied as most restaurants: most food comes in bulk packages since its cheaper, easier to transport and store. For example, rice comes in 15 kg bags, strawberry jam lives in a 5 kg plastic bucket, liquid soap comes in 5 litre jars, flour is just like with any bakery, that is, in 25 kg bags at a time, etc..
It really looks like its food meant to feed prisoners from a dirty bucket but the truth is that the chef makes all the difference in this case.
The type of food that we got that night was worthy of the fanciest restaurant around and the whole menu would cost over 500 pounds easily.