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

Morale: So-so

 

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.

Moon over Concordia base. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA-A. Golemis

Moon over Concordia base. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA-A. Golemis

Comments

8 Comments

  • Robin Snyder says:

    Which is more alone- Space or Antaratic ? Do you miss the ocean?

    • Adrianos says:

      Maybe it depends where exactly in space, but as far as the ISS is concerned we can perhaps compare our experience with European Astronaut Alex Gerst, who will soon be in Low Earth Orbit. I imagine that the lack of gravity during a spacewalk - "hovering" above the Earth - adds to the bizarre feeling of darkness that we also experience here...

    • Adrianos says:

      Yes, personally i do miss the sea quite a lot and i think our colleagues in the coastal bases are luckier in this sense. At the coastal city of Thessaloniki, where i studied, a simple walk by the sea is enough to clear your mind, even in the winter.

  • George says:

    Hope that time will pass soon in order to return back home....Please share with us video from day and night if possible.

    • Adrianos says:

      We've been trying to make a video while walking in the frost and darkness outside, there are a few technical difficulties plus it's hard to send it with our limited connection. But i'm optimistic that we'll manage in the next month.

  • Katerina says:

    Καλησπέρα σας από Αθήνα..

    • Adrianos says:

      Καλησπέρα κι από εδώ! Ελπίζω να έφτιαξε ο καιρός στην πρωτεύσουσα, εδώ είμαστε σταθερά στους -62.

  • Adrianos says:

    Καλησπέρα κι από το Νότο! Ελπίζω να έφτιαξε ο καιρός στην πρωτεύσουσα, εδώ είμαστε σταθερά στους -62.

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