Monday 17 July 2017

Antarctic Wedding.

Tom and Julie as man and wife.

On Saturday the 15th of July, two of my fellow field guides, Tom Sylvester and Julie Baum, got married here at Rothera. This is the first wedding in the British Antarctic Territory, and has had a fair bit of media coverage.

I have known Tom and Julie for a good number of years. They both work as mountaineering instructors, and I would regularly bump into then in and around Fort William where they live during the winter months. I knew that they had both been applying to work for BAS for a number of years, but due to various things it had not quite worked out for them. Finally, about a year ago they were offered wintering positions, but on different bases, Tom at Halley and Julie here at Rothera. However, a crack in the ice lead to Halley been closed for the winter and Tom ending up here at Rothera for the winter.

Recent changes in the BAT marriage laws made it easier to get married at BAS based. The base commander is able to act as magistrate, making marriage valid in the U.K. Given the way events had unfolded, Tom and Julie it was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this and get married here at Rothera. They announced their plans to the rest of the wintering team the day the ship left back in April.
My wedding invitation with the rings that Tom made. 
Julie says her wedding while master of ceremonies Paul Samways looks on. 

Signing the wedding certificate. 
After all the preperation and planning of the past few months their big day started with a champagne breakfasts for the five girls on the wintering team. This was followed by breakfast for all the boys. The breakfast was prepared by generator mechanic Mabell, who as well being able to fix generator and engines is a dab hand in the kitchen.
After this people headed off to get scrubbed up and ready for the ceremony itself. This was to be held in the sowing loft of the Fuchs building, which, over the previous couple of days, had been transformed.  At just after 1pm Julie and group of bridesmaids walked down the aisle wearing wedding dress which she had in that very room. This was made out of an old pyramid tent, something which embodied a lot of Antarctic history.  

Julie and the girls. 
Is that a tent you are wearing Mrs Sylvester.

The ceremony was conducted by Paul Samways the winter base commander, and included various readings and poems by other winterer’s. After the vows had been said, and the certificates signed, it was outside for photos. The weather forecast had been for 30-40 knot winds. Fortunately the weather on the day was much nicer than that, with light winds and a temperature of around a balmy -10ºC.  However,  -10ºC is still pretty chilly for people wearing smart wedding attire, and particularly the girls in their dresses. Getting the correct people, in the correct places for photos without anybody getting too hypothermic was quite challenging, particularly when my camera battery decided to die at an inconvenient moment.

After the group pictures, I accompanied Tom and Julie down to the runway in the snowcat for a few pictures of just the two of them. It was a case of a few pictures, then jump back in the snowcat for a warm up. 
Amazing food by Trev the Chef. 
Tom and Julie admiring their wedding present. The top right section is a piece of the flag which was taken down in the flag lowering ceremony back in May, and can be seen in the group picture in the lower right.

Then it was back to the dinning room to for the meal. However, before that started I quietly met up with Paul to had a quick look through the photos I had just taken down by the runway. One of the better ones was printed off, and Paul headed off with this to finish the wedding present before the meal.

The dining room had been transformed, and as expected Trev the chef cooked an amazing meal as well the wedding cake. There were the traditional speeches by the groom, and the best man (Zak the boatman) and the cutting of the wedding cake.  Paul then presented Tom and Julie with their wedding present, a beautifully framed series of images, and part of the flag which had flown above the base all summer.  He had also made much smaller individual frames which contained a small piece of the flag and the flag-down group photo for each person. 
Free Whiskey at the bar that evening!.

Maz and Paul entertain. 
After the meal Ben had organised a treasure hunt round base. Despite some dubious tactics from other teams, this was clearly won by the field guides (including Tom and Julie of course). By the time this was completed time was getting on, and everybody retired to bar for some musical performances by various individuals and groups. It was also a free bar and Tom and Julie had bought a number of bottles of fine whiskey for the event. These went down pretty well! After the live music had finished DJ Steve’s playlist, based on suggestions from everybody on base kept us going to late into the evening. My suggestion, Born Slippy by Underworld, seemed to be a hit with those of us older than their early thirties, those in their twenties just seemed to get confused by it!

All in all it felt like a great way to celebrate the wedding of two members of the wee community here this winter. It think what Tom and Julie (as well a everybody else on base) liked about it was the way that everybody who was there was involved in making the day happen. From cooking, to decorating the Fuchs loft and dining room, to making the wedding dress and wedding rings, to the photos and music, and too drinking the whiskey, everybody got involved. Congratulations Tom and Julie!


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