ESA sponsored medical doctor Vangelis Kaimakamis on the end of festivities and the darkness to come:
Finally the sun has left us and the long, dark period of our Antarctic experience has begun! We still see a dim light for two or three hours every day but it will not be long before we live in complete darkness for a couple of months. We are trying to adapt to these conditions we have never experienced before, while enjoying the extraordinary night sky over our heads.
On 5 May we saluted the Sun from the astronomy shelter. We drank hot wine, made sandwiches and broke red eggs. In my country, Greece, it is customary to paint eggs and then crack them during Eastertime. It was a very nice day with a lot of fun that broke the monotony of our everyday chores and assignments.
A few days earlier, on 1 May I went to the roof of the base to enjoy one of the last sunsets. In Greece we traditionally pick flowers and make wishes on the first of May but here the nearest flowers are as far as 3500 km away so I had to make do with a plastic one for the pictures, I was able to make my wishes nonetheless!
The festivities had already kicked off with my birthday on 27 April, as chef Luigi cooked a special meal with candles to blow out. My crewmates made me a unique gift: a carved piece of wood in the shape of Antarctica with signatures of all the crew on the back. I value it very much and it will decorate my wall for years to come, reminding me of my great Antarctic adventure and the fantastic people I met here.
A demanding time
Despite all the festivities, the long night arrives with the thought that it will be the most demanding period of our stay as our biological clock, our mood and motivation are influenced by the lack of natural light and other external stimuli. We are trying to measure and study some of these changes with our experiments, so for me it is interesting to observe any changes in behavior. With good team spirit and by concentrating on our duties we feel positive that everything will be OK and we are preparing ourselves for an exciting phase living in Concordia.
We held a number of safety exercises in the previous weeks: fire drills, emergency exit drills, first-aid lectures and retrieving an injured person outside. Concordia has to be totally self-dependent in cases of emergency and constant training is mandatory. Of course, these exercises are a way to escape routine and so are always welcome!
Apart from the purely scientific and technical duties on the base, we have many teleconferences with schools and universities. These are interesting, as we can spread our knowledge and experience to young people all over the world and show them how unique and fragile this continent is. It is pleasant to see how interested people are in the way of life on an Antarctic base and the details of the research we conduct here.
We certainly miss our countries and our friends and family back home. But when we stare at the wonderful night sky with a magnificent view of our galaxy, and when we walk on the ice, the only sound being the sound of our steps and breaths, we cannot help but feel thankful for these moments! We discuss the shape of the Earth as it is reflected over the horizon during the few hours that the Sun sheds some of its light over the white scenery, at other times we observe the long shadows of the base and watch as they disappear after a couple of hours, our gaze diverted upwards by the dominance of stellar formations above…
One can only be inspired by this struggle between the light and the dark silence. I can do nothing more than try to express the feeling on paper:
Shadows on Ice
shadows trying to form some shape
underneath the light of an alien moon
shapes on the ice blurry and abstract
right underneath the milk of the milky way
so distant in the twilight
so soulless and full of life together
scratching inside some lost loves
- distant shadows inside my boiling soul -
as if they want to define again
their end and their final tears,
to mirror them to the distant dome of sky
- to purify them maybe -
but it’s always too late for these old habits
and the ice will bury them deep somewhere out there
under the alien moonlight and the haunted stars.
And then, the shadows will be their only hope…