Albane Barbero's last blog entry from Concordia, written before the first aircraft arrived last week. This entry is a rough translation from her original in French.
October has been a long time passing but also, time is too short. Time has slowed down as we eagerly await the end, the arrival of new people, fruit and vegetables, our holidays and most importantly, to be reunited with our loved ones. On the other hand we have so many things to finish in preparation for the Summer crew that time is running out. We want to enjoy our last moments on the white continent with the friends we made here as well of course.
The three-day storm that kicked off October meant lots of wind, snowdrifts and hours spent digging out shelters and experiments. It is very physical work. Some of the instruments I look after did not survive the storm and I went looking for pieces of anemometers - used to measure windspeed - around the American Tower.
I am writing my university report which is slow progress with all the work and daily tasks I do. The first Saturday of the month with Elio, Yann, Simonetta, Christophe, Simon and Anne-Marie we installed signposts pointing to our hometowns, our passage at Concordia is now recorded for future hivernants. We wanted to play a game of basketball or volleyball on Sunday but there was too much wind so we went to the exercise room which is less fun of course.
Saturday 12 October we aim high and set out to make a 4 m-circumference igloo with Elio, Yann, Simonetta, Christophe and Simon, when finished it should stand 3 m tall. We might have aimed too high, our challenge is to finish it before the Summer crew arrive. Our ESA doctor joins us to help we think, but no, he just wants to take a few pictures of himself in front of our igloo… these Antarctic heros!
The wind returns and we get out the shovels again. We have not had a very nice October so far. I need to take 10 samples of the snow surface and it is not fun in the wind. At least the temperatures are increasing.
The usual crowd organise an evening outside, at the EPICA workshop so we prepare everything the night before on Friday: pancakes, drinks, meat, dessert etc. We hope to enjoy a game of pétanque with some vin chaud if the wind dies down. Before leaving we continue work on the igloo that we have dubbed the Concordia Cathedral as it is obvious we bit off more than we can chew. In the evening we played and talked over drinks. It was great to get out from the base for a while, it felt as if we had spent the weekend in the countryside.
On Sunday the wind died down so Simonetta and I went to the American tower to check, repair and clean our meteorological instruments. We used the skidoo to return to EPICA to clean up after the night before.
Summer is coming, we can smell it in the air. We have started to clean our rooms and taken to wearing summer clothes which are much more comfortable and allow for more freedom of movement.
We continue working on the igloo each evening after dinner when the wind allows. Simon started up one of the bulldozers after almost nine months of hibernation under a tarpaulin. He will start clearing the snow now, with all the wind, some places around the base have two metres of snow to clear. He will also prepare the airfield for the first plane, planned for the sixth of November.
The last week before the arrival of summer crew we work to put the base back in summer configuration and finish our igloo on 31 October – 3 m high. We stick our DC9 flag on top we are so proud. We also clear the snow from the summer camp. Elio and I spend the last week cleaning the laboratories as well.
We inaugurate the igloo on Saturday night. We don’t stay long because the temperatures still reach -50°C. I learn during the night that I have become an aunt for the second time, a little girl called Sixtine. I am happy, this news makes me nostalgic for home, however the end of my adventure in Antarctica is also weighing on my heart.
The first aircraft was supposed to arrive today, 6 November, but as the weather is not on our side the summer campaign has been delayed. This leaves me an extra night to Skype with my family before we are too many (I met my new niece Sixtine!) and another day to write. I think this will be one of my last entries, I thank you all for having followed and supporting me during this extraordinary adventure. I managed to win the best blog of 2013 organised by the French Polar missions out of a selection of eight.
A kiss to you all, bye bye,