Alex writes: I will never forget my journey to Concordia. The flight over Antarctica involves a stop between Dumont Duville and Concordia to refuel. The refuelling stops are known as Midpoint A/B/C. You land in a blanket of white – all around you is a flat white horizon.
You climb out of the hatch of the ‘Twin Otter’ airplane and stammer around in the relative hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Nothing survives there, it is just featureless ice. In a way it could have been heaven. You know you are half way somewhere, but know you still have a long way to go.
Midwinter feels like this. We are half way into our wintering and period of darkness.
The next few months are going to be extremely difficult – our reserves are running low and the effects of the darkness and isolation will take more of a hold on the crew.
We hit a high crescendo with midwinter celebrations, but the road ahead looks long and icy. The real test is yet to come. We have to remain a team. Only a team can survive in such extreme conditions. Everyone has their crucial role on the base.
To say thank you to the crew for taking part in the ESA research programme I got the Austrian research group ‘ISOSTRESS’ to send me T-shirts before I came out to Antarctica. The T-shirts bare the famous British motto ‘Keep calm and carry on’. In Concordia you feel like you are fighting a battle for oxygen, for sleep, for survival. This is nature at its most extreme. It tests your mind and body.
This has become our crew’s motto, endorsing this belief and attitude.
Now it is back to business as usual. For me that is science. Over the coming weeks I will introduce you to not only my science and work, but also to my fellow crew members and their important, if vital, roles on the base – from the mechanic to the electrician to the plumber to the glaciologist and more! I hope to show you elements of the station and the way it works.
Feel free to add comments and questions. I will be happy to answer them and maybe we can all learn something along the way!
Here is to the next 5 months… if you are ever in doubt… do as we do, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!