Posted on 22/05/2014 by julien
Spacewalking in Antarctica
Catching up on his blog entries ESA-sponsored medical doctor Adrianos Golemis writes from the cold:
Time: L+152 (April 2014) Temperature: -48 ˚ C
Week: 23 Sunlight: 4-5 hours per day
Hello, world. It’s been a long time since I wrote last, in part due to an increasing workload and in part due to our new interests here at Concordia Station. I have started taking my first steps into programming, from which the first sentence of this blog entry was inspired. Music can really lift your spirits at any time and we enjoy it greatly during our isolation. Let’s start immediately with a theme related to the content. Hope you enjoy.
Living on the Antarctic Continent for one year, a so-called “winterover”, can sound challenging . We live in isolation from the rest of the world except for a low bandwidth internet connection.. In the profound solitude of our tiny European research station Concordia, lying amidst the infinite white of Dome Circe, the challenges are many. Yet there are also great rewards for those who decide to spend a year at the edge of the world.
Firstly is the delight of enjoying some unique phenomena. Daylight is continuous when you arrive, during the austral summer. This might give you trouble sleeping, but is quite stimulating to witness endless days of a never-setting sun. Viewing sunspots with a telescope and proper filters entertained us for a few of those summer evenings.
But the real joy in astronomic observations lies in the majesty of the virgin night skies above Concordia, another realm is unveiled that mirrors the one we live in. It is dubbed “the world’s clearest sky” and as soon as the night arrives, it is a marvel to behold.
The first time I exited the base in the night with my friend Paride we were shocked. With no light of any kind, natural or manmade, other than the lights from our base, darkness engulfed us as we stepped into the gloomy surroundings. It was a deep and primordial feeling that I came to appreciate once the original shock lifted. In a way, it must have resembled a spacewalk, when a spacecraft airlock opens and astronauts find themselves hovering under the pitch-black heavens. It is fascinating to think that some nights while we sleep, astronauts are walking in space above us.
In Greek, my mother tongue, a human being is called “άνθρωπος”, [anthropos]. It has been suggested that etymologically this derives from “άνω” [ano] + “θρώσκω” [throsko], which means, “looking upwards”. While this is somewhat contested by contemporary etymologists, I recall very clearly the innate impulse to turn my eyes towards the sky at that very moment when I stepped outside Concordia Station encircled by the pure darkness that must have been what ancient Greeks described as Erebus.