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Dispatches from an Antarctic co-op: Midwinter Greetings

About Me

My name is Jake Grondin. I’m a rising junior in the College of Science, majoring in Biology, with minors in Physics and Math. I am one of two co-ops currently residing at Palmer Station, Antarctica working in Professor Bill Detrich’s lab. In this blog I am sharing my experiences on this incredible continent, and I hope you will continue to read along.

This co-op is one of the reasons I came to Northeastern, and I’ll start by saying it is most definitely not for everyone. As a research assistant, I work in the labs and stay on station through the Antarctic winter. Even though I’ve only been here for a short time, Palmer Station has become a very special place to me, and I am thrilled to be able to share this continent with the rest of the University and beyond.

If you haven’t already, read Jake’s previous posts here:

When we don’t work

Station Living

The Journey South


June 21st at 7:03am was our Winter Solstice, marking the shortest day of the year for us on station. We are one of the lucky few bases who actually see sunlight every day, and never have a day of complete darkness. Our “day” however was quite limited, with sunrise at 11:26am and sunset at 3:09pm. Now, when I say “day” in quotations, it’s because the sun never actually rises above the glaciers surrounding station. The day was sunrise, sunset, and then night; we never actually saw the sun itself.

This type of day does have some benefits. I see sunrise almost every day (unlike in Boston where I will typically sleep right through it), and the sunrises and sunsets last far longer than they do at home. This is because the sun has a much wider arc across the sky. It makes it quite difficult to miss the scenery. However, short days mean that it’s really only light at lunch time, and it’s completely dark at the start and end of every work day. Of course we are getting more and more daylight each day, but for now we are getting by with just 4 hour days.

The winter/summer solstices may mean next to nothing for you at home, but it’s the biggest holiday we celebrate across the Antarctic community. Everyone sends their Midwinter (as the solstice is called down here) greeting cards, and a friendly video (ours is attached) wishing the rest of the bases a happy holiday. This truly brings our community together. We get a quick glimpse of all the other bases, and no matter what country your base is from, or how many people are on station, we get the opportunity to see each other and share this holiday with each other.

This is our station’s Midwinter greeting! It includes the summer crew just before they left, which is why you are seeing more than 20 people.


How does station celebrate Midwinter you ask? Well, aside from the greeting cards, we all take the celebratory plunge at 7:03am into the ocean. You heard that correctly, the ocean. It was a brisk 29.45F in the ocean and 22.6F outside. Before you ask, yes, it was cold, and we had a lovely sprint to the hot tub immediately after jumping in. 11 of the 20 of us jumped and that’s a number we are quite happy with.

After our jump we all sprint to the hot tub. This is the 11 of us brave enough to jump!


After the jump our WONDERFUL chef Kristen cooked us a Midwinter Dinner. The menu is pictured and everything was delicious, as could be imagined. This was our formal dinner, and I unfortunately missed out on all the photo ops, aside from the wonderful Kristen presiding over her spectacular cuisine. If you think about what we had (duck, lobster, etc.) this would probably have been quite an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant.

This dinner was truly all about our wonderful chef and her cuisine. She doesn’t like thanks, but we had to give her a round of applause after this one.

After dinner we had a phone call with the South Pole station, and wished them a Happy Midwinter as well. This holiday is a new tradition for me, and seeing the well wishes roll in from past residents of the station meant that the celebration stuck with them well after their time on the ice. So from Palmer station to you, Happy Midwinter!!

Happy Midwinter from my small family to you! Photo by Ken Keenan.

Next week I’ll finally give an intro to the labs, and some science that happens here!

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