CAPE DENISON, Antarctica (Reuters) - The closest Australian expeditioners to Antarctica will get to a nativity scene this Christmas is watching thousands of Adelie penguins tending to newly hatched youngsters.
There are no Christmas carols, no avenues lined with decorations and certainly no pine trees on the icy, eastern Antarctic plateau where the 10 members of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation will be spending the festive season this year, about 3,000 km (1,870 miles) away from any Australian mainland.
Being summer, the daylight here also lasts for 24 hours.
Archaeologist Jody Steele is used to spending weeks at a time in isolation in remote areas of Australia’s bush, but this will be her first Christmas at Cape Denison, working with others to preserve the relics of Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911-1914 expedition to the area.
Although the area is a world away from her home in warm Victoria state, Steele said she was delighted to experience her first truly white Christmas.
“This will be the first time I will wake up to snow and ice, so it’s a whole new world for me,” she said as she washed clothes in a bucket of hot water usually used for showering.
“I’m hoping to have clean, well cleanish, thermals for Christmas day.”
Mark Farrell, a carpenter from Tasmania, is also excited at the prospect of a postcard-perfect Christmas.
“I’m 43 years old and this will be my first white Christmas. I usually don’t get too excited by Christmas but I’m pretty sure it will be a bit more exciting down here,” he said.
Chief conservator Michelle Berry, a veteran of Christmas in remote places, plans to infuse a medieval theme into Christmas Eve by making a night-cap of wassail, a warm, spicy alcoholic punch for which she will bake apples, and which will be passed around in its large pot for all to share.
All work will stop on Christmas Day and the expedition members will spend the day relaxing in their small home, which also serves as the eating hall and the office. A small, fake Christmas tree takes pride of place in the modest hut, and tinsel decorations are strewn around the room.
Everybody said they planned to wear Santa hats and toy reindeer antlers.
Christmas lunch is set to be a relatively lavish affair, given the lack of fresh produce, with a starter, roast lamb and ham with accompanying vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Wine will also be served and a “Santa” will appear to hand out presents.
It’s tradition at Cape Denison to play a game of pseudo-cricket, which usually ends quickly, and with little ball chasing, because the polar clothing and the ice make it quite difficult to run.
The weather is also not ideal for Christmas outdoor sports — Friday’s forecast for Cape Denison is a temperature of about 0 degrees accompanied by a bitter wind.
Editing by Miral Fahmy