ESA-sponsored medical doctor Floris van den Berg on the evacuation procedure at Concordia research station, taken from his personal blog:
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland – 1865
Down, down, down. Would the fall ever come to an end? As I’m sliding through this 10 meter sock, the only thing I really worry about is getting stuck. What would happen? Would they de-sock me? Or just squeeze me out? Before I can fully process the thought, the end is there. I stop. Outside. It’s -32°C and I’m wearing a t-shirt, I realise that an evacuation exit is nice, but a heated backup shelter would be even better because now it’s the cold I need to escape!
As fire is the biggest threat to the Concordia station and since the Vostok Fire Brigade is 650 km away, we have to rely on ourselves to deal with any problem that occurs. Part of the safety plan is a mirrored setup of the base, so for every essential system there is at least one backup option, all systems are also equipped with automatic fire extinguishers and all new arrivals attend an obligatory safety briefing. Part of the briefing is the evacuation procedure, which is how I find myself outside!
One by one we drop down the big chute: ‘feet first and use your arms to slow down!’ Unfortunately, it seems that my Dutch body is quite different from the French-Italian standard and I barely manage to squeeze my shoulders through the opening.
Down, down, down. Would the fall ever come to an end? With a second slide I manage to speed up a bit, I convinced ‘the King’ that I needed extra practice in the name of safety, not just for fun…
Down, down, down. No white rabbit to welcome me, but a whole white planet instead.
Stats: Temperature -32,6°C. Windchill -41,4°C. 24 hours of daylight.