Alex writes: The strangest feeling is waking up in the morning when its dark outside. You feel disorientated in time and place - even through the usual fog caused by hypoxia, it takes a few seconds longer to register where you are and more so, what time it is. I suppose this is how a bear feels when it digs its den and settles down to hibernate until spring.
Life quickly became concentrated in the base. Our master-chef Giorgio prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner at normal times keeping the station to a regular biorhythm of its own, but my saviour is my wrist watch. I bought it for only 8 euros and it has a light, alarm and stopwatch - everything you need. It has travelled with me on my wrist for almost 9 years, sailing through medical examinations, times zones, jungles, tents and even a war zone. It has outlived two pairs of walking boots and more pairs of underwear than I care to remember.