First sunset. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA – A. Barbero

Translated excerpts from Albane Barbero’s blog in French on snow formations and taking out the rubbish:

Tuesday, February 12: first day of winter. It is very quiet upstairs in the labs, later I understand why: the boys installed a games room and refurbished the dining room. the summer dining room has become the games room (with billiards, table football, ping-pong and darts) and the living room has been turned into a dining room with one large table for the winter crew, just like home! It’s great! In the evening, we experience our first sunset and we all stay up to watch the sun disappear below the horizon.

Saturday, February 16: Today, Yann and Evangelos raised the Greek flag alongside the French and Italian flags. Tonight we celebrate the birthday of Anne-Marie. We decided to give her a little gift, admittedly it is not an original gift for people in Antarctica, but it is still a beautiful present. We gave her a map of the Antarctic cut out of a piece of wood, personalised and painted in the colours of Concordia (orange and white). Luigi, the chef, made an appetiser and a sumptuous feast for the occasion, really delicious!

Thursday, February 21: After a hard day’s work, nothing like a workout followed by a good sauna to relax!

Saturday, February 23: Yannick, Elio and I are on cleaning duty, which means we have to clean everything and take out the rubbish. This task is nothing like taking out the rubbish at home. We have to collect all the rubbish bins, separate the waste (paper, plastic, aluminium, steel, glass etc…) and compact them. We have a room with waste compactors, a grinder and a composter for organic waste. After that we take the compacted garbage to containers and tidy it all.

Tonight we celebrate Simonetta’s birthday (yes another!). We give her the same gift as we gave Anne-Marie but personalised differently. The evening continues with a poker night, this time we play for points that can be exchanged against chores such as doing the dishes or cleaning. I am at -20 points which means I will be doing more housework in the future!

Credits: IPEV/PNRA A. Barbero

Monday, February 25: Believe it or not, but today it was warm, by which I mean that there was no wind and temperatures were between –30°C and –35°C. By our new standards this was positively hot! I also started my Italian lessons; it is time that I started.

Thursday, February 28: Today begins by having my blood drawn for the ESA experiments. I am first to go (based on our names in alphabetic order). Luckily I’m not afraid of needles or blood test because I was entitled to four needle pricks, two in each arm, of which two in the same vein. As our blood is thicker here in Concordia, it takes longer to fill the tubes. I think that I acted as a test-case since the other crew members only had one prick and I’ve never had problems with blood tests before!

Yukimarimo. Credits: IPEV/PNRA – A. Barbero

In the afternoon Elio and I dug a pit 1.30 m deep to sample snow for our experiments. It is very cold to stand in the snow, I returned with cold feet and hands but I did not lose any fingers or toes and nothing froze! On the way, we admired Yukimarimo, small snowballs formed during very low temperatures and strong winds. They are very light and very similar to cotton. They behave a bit like tumbleweed in deserts (everyone who has seen a Western will know what I am talking about). They are very cute and it is nice to watch them be carried away by the wind! (I remind readers that the snow around us is our only scenery!)

Digging a hole. Credits: IPEV/PNRA – A. Barbero