The end is near, we only have two months left in total isolation. We have been warned that September and October are the hardest months, we shall see!
We have started to talk about after-Concordia. We are planning our holidays because after more than a year without days off or even weekends off for some (like me) we feel we have earned them. But then what? Some are going to finish their studies, some will look for work, I will be doing both!
I am trying to write my final report for my studies, but it is hard to stay motivated and sit down and write with my workload, the tension on the base, thinking of holidays, and the rising Sun that beckons me to go walking outside. We have little time left and we try to spend what is left together playing games or staying up late in conversation.
Elio, the Italian glaciologist passed his final exams for university over an internet call. He got the best possible score and I am very impressed that he managed to stay motivated all through the winter, studying in his room. The night of his exams Luigi organised a special dinner to celebrate.
We have started the large clean-up of the base, scrubbing the floors, waxing them, cleaning the walls with steam, tidying the rooms and so on. It is a lot of work and quite tiring but we gain satisfaction from leaving the house cleaner than we took it over in the Summer. I talked to my family this weekend and managed to speak to my father after four months without seeing or hearing him talk. He finally returned home after his health problems and it was very emotional to speak to him.
The nights are getting shorter and shorter and we have to remember to close the blinds when we go to sleep to keep the morning light out. It is weird to see the landscape return to how it was at the beginning of the winter, the end is visible in the sky. To appreciate the last possibilities of watching the skies at night Elio, Simon, Christophe, Luigi and I organised a sky-watching session in the astronomy laboratory. We saw many shooting stars and satellites as well as seeing the Milky Way the Magellan clouds, Venus, Saturn and so on.
On 20 September I turned 26 and was spoiled, everybody gave me a small gift. Simonetta sent me a photo, Elio gave me some hand crème (mine was finished), Christophe gave me a plastic Christmas tree (I miss nature), Antonio gave me a soft pillow that he had bought before coming to Antarctica and Anne-Marie gave me a bookmark from a cooking association in France. In the evening we had our videoconference with the International Space Station that lasted almost two hours. It was great to talk to ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano who showed us Earth from space, amazing!
The next day we celebrated my birthday, Luigi prepared a crazy buffet and I received my last gift: a map of Antarctica. We opened our Antarctic Tower Club for the occasion and had a nice party dressed up on a space theme. It was great fun preparing the outfits.
The last weekend of September we finished cleaning the base. At last. We celebrated with a drink and a game of Pictionary. On Sunday we started preparing the arrows that we will leave on the signposts outside pointing to our home towns.
On 30 September we experienced a storm. The day started with winds of up to 10,4 m/s that whips the snow up and reduces visibility. It is very tiring to walk outside in winds like this. At night the winds increased to 14,4 m/s. Christophe and I joined Elio to help him collect his snow samples. As we couldn’t see much we followed some cables. It took us twenty minutes to close the doors of the workshop that the wind kept blowing open. We managed to block them closed before too much snow accumulated inside!
The storm was impressive but I enjoyed going outside, it was not cold at all (relatively speaking of course!) and it was fun to see the landscape turn white after a day of beautiful sunshine before.
Just one month and a week left of isolation. In little over four months I will be back in France!