Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast
Music requests and special messages for the staff at the British Antarctic Survey
This is possibly the BBC World Service's most unusual programme as well as serving its smallest intended audience. It is broadcast each year on 21 June to a guaranteed audience this year of just 44 people: the men and women scientists and support staff overwintering at four British bases in Antarctica.
There are just eight among the seals and penguins of King Edward Point on South Georgia and only four at nearby Bird Island. The biggest base, Rothera, on the Antarctic Peninsula houses 19 winterers – the population can reach 100 in the Summer. Furthest south still is Halley VI on the Brant ice shelf where the Sun does not rise for many weeks and temperatures of -30° C are made worse by bitter winds. But life is more comfortable for the 13 lucky residents because they are in the futuristic new modules of Halley VI – the previous five bases have either been dismantled or even lost beneath the ice.
Festivities on midwinter's day are as traditional as those of Christmas. The base commanders rise early to cook breakfast for their staff, presents are exchanged, there are sports and even - weather permitting - a mad streak in the snow! Feasting continues before they gather round a shortwave set to listen to the traditional broadcast packed with greetings from their family and friends back home together with music requests and messages from the British Antarctic Survey and a few celebrities. Finally the Antarctic horror movie The Thing is screened. For those who know the plot, perhaps it is just as well there are no longer sledge dogs in Antarctica!
Presenter of the greetings programme, Martin Redfern, visited Rothera a few years ago to record science programmes for BBC World Service. He says "Visitors to Antarctica cannot fail to be moved by its beauty and its indifference to human presence. And that gives me deep respect for those who endure the darkest long night there. Although I was only there in the summer, I can imagine the scene now and feel I am talking to friends."
The frequencies for the programme will be:
7350 kHz; Ascension; 207°
9890 kHz; Woofferton; 182°
5965 kHz; Dhabayya; 203°