Researchers based near the South Pole celebrated Thursday the summer solstice. For more than a century, explorers venturing onto the white continent have traditionally plunged into an icy bath on this occasion.
June 21 is a date eagerly awaited by researchers in Antarctica. The solstice announces more daylight in the southern hemisphere after weeks of darkness. It corresponds to the longest day of the year, the moment when the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equator. Researchers symbolically mark this date by performing a joyful and invigorating dive into icy waters.
“The summer solstice is very important in Antarctica, it marks half of the year here on the ice and means that the sun will spend a little more time each day in the sky,” says Rebecca Jeffcoat, director of Australian scientific basis of Casey.
The event is celebrated at Australia’s three Antarctic stations (Casey, Davis and Mawson) and at the base of the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.
Water less than 22 degrees
To achieve this tradition, scientists at the Casey Foundation cut a narrow hole in the thick ice before undressing and jumping into the water at temperatures of less than 22 degrees Celsius.
Rebecca Jeffcoat says, “swimming in waters below zero degrees is kind of a crazy tradition. But our intrepid explorers anticipate this moment with pleasure. 21 of the 26 people living in the resort are brave enough to embark on an icy bath. ”
Difficult conditions for researchers
This is the first time that Casey’s Base Manager has spent the winter in Antarctica, describing this extraordinary experience: “The environment is spectacular and harsh. We live in a series of incredible conditions, blizzards below zero at dawn or winter twilight when the sun is near the horizon. ”
“It’s a challenge to be so far away from family and friends. But we have established a community of friends with very strong ties to the resort and they will surely last all our lives, “also adds.
A total of 75 researchers are working on the white continent under the Australian Antarctic Program, most of which remain for 12 months.