Antonio Litterio describes the never-ending Antarctic battle with the cold. This post should be read while listening to music from pianist Roberto Cacciapaglia:
Our main protagonist at the beginning of September was the bad weather. The wind, with its icy breath, brings mild temperatures of -46°C down to a -80°C including wind-chill factor. It transforms all that is around me. The vast plateau is immersed in a surreal blinding fog. Tiny ice particles spread the sunlight and the sphere of the Sun is only just visible. On the ground, the wind draws snow crystals with twisting curves of a few centimeters, they seem to be running away from everything while the snow under them hardens like a blanket that does not want to feel the cold. If you venture outside your steps are erased in just a few minutes. As you walk further from the base it gradually gets swallowed by the fog. At first details like the windows disappear until only a faint dark stain on a background of white remains.
It is an unequal struggle. Cold is at home here and plays with us, so the time taken before exiting the building in preparation for these conditions is spent very carefully. I avoid leaving uncovered parts of the body, especially the face and hands, which are the first to suffer.
Once ready you double check in the mirror and walk to the door. The size of the base protects you at first, but once down the stairs you start to feel the wind whistling and penetrate under your hat and clothes. You sense it not only from the noise of the wind but also from the frost on the tip of your ears. You think that you will defeat the cold by protecting yourself with your hands but it is impossible as you realize that your breath freezes the neck guard around the mouth and the cotton becomes hard like cold marble as the folds freeze and rasp along my lips. Eyelashes start to glue shut and it becomes difficult to open my eyes, even my beard gets stuck to the neck guard.
You may wonder: “Why then go out in these conditions? The base is an excellent shelter, an oasis in the middle of this desert of ice, where shelter and calmness awaits.” But a lively curiosity to feel these forces of nature on my skin is stronger than any certainty of comfort. It is a way to escape the monotony, but it is also a way to deal with my thoughts. During the winter I reflected on the climate, and I felt like the snow running away from something, feeling at the mercy of the elements that blind me, unable to see the road ahead. Going outside makes me feel the sensations on my skin and I realise how strong and intense the experience living in Concordia is.
Then slowly there is a glimpse of blue sky that is a prelude to the end of the bad weather. Slowly the wind subsides, and whistles less and less, the pale sun is surrounded by a halo of light, the snow stops because it no longer feels the need to escape , the noises disappear and the plateau slowly returns to its normal calmness while I wait for the wind to give a new dynamism to everything that surrounds me.