22 June 2005

partying on the seventh continent

Antarctica party atmosphere heats up
In what has become a tradition, Australians living on Antarctica will spend tonight celebrating with a mid-winter party on this, the shortest day of the year.

Festivities include digging a hole in the ice for those brave or foolhardy enough to take a very chilly dip.

At Australia's Mawson Station, Dr Geoff Bennett says the party atmosphere is already taking hold.

'The swimming hole's dug, the ice rink is poured, the lobsters are defrosting, people are pretty relaxed, there's a few beers in the fridge,' he said.

'The weather's a bit blowy - it's 44 knots, but only minus four, which is pretty warm for down here.

'We've been normally around minus 20, so if the wind calms down we'll go for a bit of a swim.'

Dr Bennett says he is among those planning to take the plunge, in one of the more light-hearted traditions of Australia's Antarctic involvement.

On a more serious note, Dr Bennett says the effects of the long, dark days can take their toll.

'You sort of start withdrawing into yourself to a degree - it's almost intrusive when you've got to actually socialise and do other things, so it's funny sort of withdraw into yourself,' he said.

Medical circles talk about a so-called seasonal effected disorder, where people actually go to the point of depression simply through lack of sunlight.

Mawson Station has a webcam that lets you take in all the excitements of Antarctic culture without having to brave the current temperature, -8.0c. And I just know you always wanted to hear an Emperor penguin sneezing.

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