Our home on the ice

Concordia's floor plan

Concordia’s floor plan. Credits: Sylvie Malo

Dr. Carmen Possnig is the ESA-sponsored medical doctor spending 12 months at Concordia research station in Antarctica. She facilitates a number of experiments on the effects of isolation, light deprivation, and extreme temperatures on the human body and mind. In the following post, Carmen discuss life in Antarctica.

Sleepless nights, vertigo, constant headaches, persistent fatigue, shortness of breath when I climb just a few stairs (climbing stairs to lunch consumes more calories than I could take) – these are all reliable companions during the first days.

The Antarctic gym. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA–C. Possnig

The jetlag, the altitude, the cold, the low humidity and the lack of oxygen – I have to get used to all this. Some things get better over time, others stay. For example, my oxygen saturation was at 64% for the first few days, which can be compensated surprisingly well. Meanwhile it is much higher, but I still run out of air in the gym before my muscles get tired. We are here at 3233 m above sea level, but due to the height of the troposphere at the pole it feels like at 3800 m.

Concordia consists of two towers connected by a bridge. The main entrance is reached via a staircase that ends in the bridge.

A tropical library. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA–C. Possnig

On the first floor of the “quiet tower” is the hospital, the magazine with technical equipment, the telephone and the bedroom of the doctor and the chief technician. On the floor above are our 16 bedrooms, two bathrooms and three toilets. Above, on the third floor are the laboratories (glaciology, meteorology, astronomy, ESA), the station leader’s office, the radio room, various storerooms and the Skype room.

On the first floor of the “noisy tower” is the office of the technicians, the workshop, the waste room, the washroom and the entrance to the central room with generators and the water recycling system. On the second floor is our gym, small but with everything you need to stay fit, and our video room. In this room we project films like a cinema on the wall. We also we use it as a yoga and music room (various guitars, an electric violin, an electric bass, an accordion, a ukulele and my stage piano are at home there), and the three storage rooms for food (+15°C, +4°C and -20°C).

Another staircase leads to the third floor, where the kitchen, living room and dining room are located, including pool table, ping pong table, table football and library.

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