Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Anne-Marie

Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Christophe

Winter in Concordia seen through the eyes of French glaciologist Albane Barbero. Translated from her French blog

Everything began on 5 May when the Sun said goodbye. We were grouped together at the Astronomia Laboratory for a brunch with vin chaud. After three months of isolation, this get-together ‘in the countryside’ did us a world of good, but we realised all the same: the winter has started for real now. After taking many pictures of the Sun’s farewell we continued with a trilingual game of Pictionary: Italian, English and French. We ended the day with a visit to the hair salon and continued upgrading our library by adding dividers by letter, we created a very professional-looking bookshelf.

Group photo. Credits: IPEV/PNRA

Group photo. Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Yann

We start the winter with many exercises and training: first-aid, fire drills, emergency exits, creating medical teams and so on. These tasks were in addition to some new experiments I am doing so I don’t have time to consider that we are living in the dark, which is a good thing, believe me! The darkness is never total actually, all during winter we see a hazy glow on the horizon for a few hours in the morning. Some of us don’t realise this because their sleeping patterns are unregulated and they don’t wake up in time.

I follow my family’s happenings from afar through Skype and telephone conversations: my nephew is growing up fast. He now can say ‘Babou’ which is my nickname, even though he means ‘balloon’. We are all waiting for his little sister to arrive. I won’t meet her until January or February when she will already be three to four months old, around the age I last saw her brother.

Thankfully Midwinter arrives to break the routine and lift our morale. We realise with joy and sadness that we are halfway through and the Sun will start climbing to return on 10 August.

Amazing Aurora. Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Yann

Amazing Aurora. Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Yann

July goes by quickly, almost as if it didn’t exist. We were so preoccupied by birthdays and finishing the library, making a new television stand, the amazing auroras, creating logos for our t-shirts and ordering them on the internet and of course our daily tasks that before we knew it we only had a few days before the Sun would reappear.


Crazy. Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Yann

Credits: IPEV/PNRA-Yann

We reached a yearly temperature record: -80,5°C ! Yann, Christophe, Elio and Simonetta and I took a photo in a swimming costume on the roof to celebrate the record cold, we didn’t stay long outside of course! A few days later we reached a new cold record with wind-chill factor: -100,6°C. Brrr, even covered up we could feel the difference on that day!

The mornings are showing more and more daylight and we don’t need to take a torch with us to work anymore. Alarm clocks are not necessary for some, the light suffices. It is magical we can feel the Sun just below the horizon and it will not take long before it shows us its beautiful light. The hazy light offers fantastic skies and at dusk we are treated to amazing colours: red, orange, purple and pink before the night sets in and the Milky Way returns with the Moon covering the scene silver.

When the Sun came back, even the late-sleepers woke up for its appearance. Some went to the rooftop to take photos, we had almost forgotten what it looked like. Others, like myself, had a stroll to the Summer camp not far from the base to have fun in the snow and take pictures. The Sun attracted us all, even the plumes of smoke from the base were drawn to its beauty which was annoying for our picture compositions. To celebrate Luigi the chef prepared a buffet with a champagne cocktail.

On Monday 12 August Elio and I took our cameras and went to the shelter to continue snapping the Sun. We could almost see it fully, it rose fast. By the end of the week we would see it in totality which is great for moral. It reminds us of summer, holidays on the beach but also that the end is near. Sentiments of joy and sadness mix to make us a little melancholy…

Rising Sun. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA-E. Kaimakamis

Rising Sun. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA-A. Barbero

Albane Barbero