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 walks us through a day in the life of Concordia.
At 12:30 the whole crew arrives for lunch in the living room. After our meal we sit comfortably together in the living room, drink espresso or tea, listen to music or read books or comics. The Italians are enthusiastic table football players, and our doctor likes to play an Italian game called Bolcetta with the technical boss at the billiard table, which we have now transformed into a games room for the winter.
The afternoons are different. Sometimes we go back to the lab and continue working. Sometimes I walk past the technical office and the workshop into the adjacent containers, where the technical headquarters with the three generators and the Grey Water Recycling Unit (GWTU) are located.
The GWTU is the recycling system for our wastewater. Up to 85% of the water is cleaned and reused here. The system was developed by ESA as a prototype for future space missions. Our plumber, Florentin, takes care of it lovingly. Every three weeks I analyse the quality of the recycled drinking water as well as the fresh water. We make new water relatively easily by melting snow. In addition, the station is kept warm with the heated water.
After the afternoon work is done, we have various leisure activities to choose from. Sometimes our writing club meets to write blog posts together. Sometimes I am drawn to my e-piano, and four days a week I visit the gym together with a colleague. If the various devices are not varied enough for us, we use the climbing wall we built together this winter.
At 19:30 there is a dinner together. We often meet earlier for an aperitif in the kitchen. Marco, our cook, is always happy to have company.
After dinner we sometimes watch movies with wild combinations of languages and subtitles, read on the sofa, chat or play a game.
On Sundays there is occasionally the opportunity to use our sauna. This is not in the station, but outside in one of the containers. So, dressed in a bathrobe, you have to walk a few dozen meters through the snow, the wind and the cold to the container. Inside there is a small sauna, smelling wonderfully of wood, and it is not uncommon for us to have 90°C there. If you then venture out the door, you sometimes have a temperature difference of 170°C. In summer, the brave ones among us still lay down in the snow to walk back to the sauna. We only go outside for a few moments to cool off, and are immediately covered by a white layer of snow crystal. The relaxation effect is wonderful, one can hardly end a week in a more beautiful way here.
To read Carmen’s adventures at Concordia in German, see her personal blog.