The long winter ahead

Mar 25, 2013
Concordia crewmember ponders the setting Sun. The wonderful Antarctic views make up for living in sub-zero conditions without sunlight for four months, cut off from all outside help. ESA sponsors a medical research doctor in Concordia every winter to study the long-term effects of isolation. Credit: ESA/IPEV/PNRA - A. Salam

Secluded from civilisation and living in a white desert, the crew at the Concordia research base in Antarctica have settled in to their home and are ready for the cold, long winter ahead.

After a period of adaptation to the sub-zero temperatures and on the , the base was prepared for three-quarters of a year of self-sufficient running. Food, fuel and equipment were ferried in over land and by air while personnel worked on maintaining the base and its equipment.

The last plane left the base last month, signalling the start of winter and the isolation it brings. Temperatures can drop to –80°C and the Sun does not rise above the horizon for around four months, leaving the base in permanent darkness. The crew have only themselves to rely on – there can be no help from the outside under these .

Land supply arrival.

Far from entering a state of hibernation, the crew will be observing Earth's climate in a unique location at the end of the world.

This year, the base will be operating at high capacity, with all but one of the winter beds filled by scientists and technicians. Astronomers, glaciologists, and a are supported by a plumber, electrician, mechanic and cook, among others, to form a team and survive the long winter.

Inspecting ice core.

ESA has sent a medical doctor to study the multicultural crew as they adapt and work together. This year, medical doctor Evangelos Kaimakamis from Greece is running eight experiments preparing for future spaceflight.

For topics ranging from crew morale and efficiency to blood pressure and posture, Concordia provides an environment similar in some respects to . Even materials that could be used in human spacecraft are tested there. Which material stands up best to the inevitable bacteria that settle and colonise humans' surroundings?

How will the multicultural crew stand up to the stressful, isolated environment as they perform their research? Follow the Chronicles from Concordia blog for regular updates from the dark white south.

Explore further: Glaciers in the grand canyon of Mars?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Medical research on ice

Jun 12, 2008

New medical equipment recently delivered to the Antarctic station Concordia will help understand how our bodies physically adapt to this extreme environment - knowledge which could help prepare for a future ...

Season's greetings from the other extreme

Dec 23, 2011

It is summer in Antarctica and the new crew for the Concordia research station will soon arrive. And since the place is second only to space for harsh conditions, they have been trained courtesy of ESA.

Voyage to the most isolated base on Earth

Jan 30, 2012

Alexander Kumar, the next ESA-sponsored crewmember to stay in Concordia, has arrived safely at the research base in Antarctica. The voyage to one of the remotest places on Earth takes even longer than the ...

The most remote workplace on Earth

Dec 20, 2012

Located in one of the loneliest locations on Earth, the French-Italian Concordia station was captured on high-resolution camera by ESA's Proba-1 microsatellite last month, showing the snow-covered base and ...

Mars500 crew prepare to open the hatch

Oct 31, 2011

The 520 days of isolation for the Mars500 crew will end on 4 November, when the hatch of their ‘spacecraft’ is opened for the first time since June last year. Scientists eagerly await the final samples ...

Recommended for you

Glaciers in the grand canyon of Mars?

49 minutes ago

For decades, planetary geologists have speculated that glaciers might once have crept through Valles Marineris, the 2000-mile-long chasm that constitutes the Grand Canyon of Mars. Using satellite images, ...

NASA support key to glacier mapping efforts

53 minutes ago

Thanks in part to support from NASA and the National Science Foundation, scientists have produced the first-ever detailed maps of bedrock beneath glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. This new data will help ...

Advancing the state-of-the-art in seismic science

1 hour ago

Data received from seismic monitoring stations coupled with information rapidly shared via smartphones and the Internet by those who experienced the south Napa temblor is serving to advance scientists' understanding ...

The threat of global sea level rise

1 hour ago

Changes taking place in the oceans around Antarctica could result in an abrupt rise in global sea level, according to a Victoria University of Wellington led study.

User comments : 0