Published 21st June 2024

Midwinter’s Day 2024

Image provided by the British Antarctic Survey

Today we celebrate Midwinter’s Day in the British Antarctic Territory, it marks the halfway point of the long Antarctic winter.

HM Commissioner to the British Antarctic Territory, Paul Candler has written to British Antarctic Survey (BAS) personnel currently stationed in Antarctica.

“I write to express my sincere thanks and best wishes to you all as you celebrate Midwinter.

The British Antarctic Territory is one of the UK’s most unique Overseas Territories and as the year-round representatives of the British presence, I am proud of the role you all play in safeguarding this amazing place.

I was delighted to start the year by visiting Antarctica, joined by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister with responsibility for the Polar Regions, and Members of the Environmental Audit Committee’s Sub-Committee on Polar Research. During our brief visit to Rothera, we saw firsthand the outstanding scientific work carried out at the station and supported in deep field.  We were also able to tour some of the latest infrastructure improvements, including the new Discovery Building on which many of you are currently working, that will ensure the station meets modern scientific needs.

HM Commissioner, Paul Candler, in Antarctica

It was incredible to be travelling on the RRS Sir David Attenborough (SDA), seeing her among the icy landscape of Antarctica and getting a sense of her amazing scientific capabilities, which were subsequently put to full use in her maiden major Antarctic marine scientific expedition to support this year’s PICCOLO cruise to the Weddell Sea.

This voyage gave all of us a very keen appreciation of the challenges of working in Antarctica, particularly over the more extreme and isolated winter months. I am incredibly grateful for the sacrifices you make and your determination to deliver excellence in such harsh conditions.

This year also marked the 80th anniversary of Operation Tabarin when Base A was established at Port Lockroy (and FCDO appointed its first Antarctic specialist!) in February 1944.  The UK’s commitment to Antarctica continues, thanks to a wide range of UK stakeholders, and others like you who dedicate themselves to its exploration, understanding and protection.

The British Antarctic Survey is at the forefront of Antarctic science and technological advances, and the new BAS Strategy 2024-2034 aims to ensure it maintains this position. Whether through successful flight trials of the autonomous windracer aircraft, resurfacing the Rothera runway, using alternative fuels to power the SDA, or sampling the seawater around the largest iceberg in the world, over the past season alone BAS has showcased the organisation’s creativity and determination to reduce its carbon footprint and better understand the global implications of climate change.

Through supporting Ticket to Antarctica – a soon to be launched public engagement initiative, where people will be invited to submit their names to journey on the SDA and receive weekly updates – we hope the wonder and awe of Antarctica will be shared by families across the UK, as they learn about the fragility and global importance of the continent.

I hope you enjoy celebrating this Midwinter Day and can also take the time to reflect on all you have achieved over the past year.”