Friday, 12 August 2011


It?s Thursday, August 11th. The sun would rise today after a fourteen
week absence. Everyone has been buzzing for a week as they day got
closer and closer.

Andrea sorted the party, and I arranged a football match. We saw the
sunrise from the roof of the noisy building so we could appreciate the
view best, with a glass of mulled wine and some good music.
Logistically, it was a bit of a difficult as you might expect. It?s
still -60, and up there the wind is strong, so the wine cooled so fast
and the food treats were half frozen again as soon as you unwrapped
them from the foil. The speakers had to be left below the hatch or
die, and we had to be careful because there's a GPS antenna up there
with a fairly ordinary electrical flex that'll just fracture if it's
moved. But it was so worth it. It?s the sun! After weeks of
tantalisingly more daylight and a increasingly large orange focus on
the horizon, the sun showed a fraction of itself above the horizon and
sent us direct, strong rays. There wasn?t much clowning around like
there usually is at a Concordia party. There wasn?t even that much
talking, really. The guys spent a lot of time just taking in the view
of the sun and the mirages on the snow. I saw Domenico standing at
the rail, alone, with his arms outstretched as if bathing himself in
the light. It?s funny, but under our sunless sky the snow colour has
been virtually black, and then grey, and then blue for so long that I
had a bit of a surprise to register that it was white. I had a bit of
a ?oh, yeah...? moment.

The progressively longer and brighter days have exerted a dramatic
effect on the crew, I would say. Most, but not all, of the guys who
were suffering poor sleep have got back to normal ? Angelo,
particularly, says like a switch being flicked he literally overnight
went back to full night's sleep and to me he looks eight years
younger. And, as they come one by one to the lab to do experiments I
can see that without exeception everyone is in a better mood.

The football match was, of course, also a typically Antarctic
challenge. I?m proud to say the French/Scottish IPEV team beat the
Italian ENEA team 3-0 in a fifteen minute, 5-a-side match. Our famous
victory was really thanks to two super fit French forwards, Ilann and
David, who are unbelievably able to keep running in this thin air,
plus some rather traditionally ?robust? Scottish defending. They
didn?t even get a shot at our goal (proud). David flattened a
?pitch? using the chargeuse the day before, we drilled into the snow
to put up decent posts for goals, the timer froze irretrievably
fifteen seconds after it was started, and we got through three balls
because the first was air filled and collapsed to a quarter of it?s
size in a couple of minutes, and the second was leather that froze so
solid it hurt too much to kick it. We were running, like we would at
sea level, but of course hypoxic, in a down suit, with knee high thick
rubber boots. David?s boot froze and cracked wide open right across
above the toes, but he kept going. We all gave it good. And what a
good atmosphere afterwards at lunch. Strong daylight lit the living
room, and the astronomers, who had stayed up to see in the sunrise and
join in the match, had lunch with us. So we were all together as a
crew, in daylight, for the first time since March. It was great, a
really big occasion.

For me, it was a better festival than midwinter. When I went back to
work in the afternoon I felt I?d had a week long holiday. That?s how
good it was just to see the sun.


Photos below

I?ve really asked more of my panorama software than is reasonable in
making these photos of the inside of the base. If you look around the
pictures you?ll see bits of roof that don?t join up, squint corners,
sloping walls, distorted clocks, and even 90 degree corners when in
fact there are none.  They are all artifacts of the panorama making
process.  I have to admit too, that some rooms are made to look a
little larger than they really are.
It seems the website didn?t quite order the pictures how I meant, but
never mind.
Centrale, the engines are behind the window you can see on the
middle-right of the photo, and on the far right are the stairs going
up to the first floor and main corridor.
Engine.  There are three, the other two are hidden behind the exhaust pipes.
Chargeuse ? (?loader?) A modified caterpillar tractor able to run in
the cold here. Through the winterover it?s really fundamental role is
to scoop snow and dump it in the fondoire where it is melted for our
consumption in the base, and to keep flattening snow drifts so walking
isn't so difficult.
Summer camp, noon, 18th July.
Under the base.
Base. On the right the orange painted building is centrale from the
outside. The end nearest the camera, with the sloping top is the

First floor
GWTU ?The grey water treatment unit. The green tubes hold reverse
osmosis filters, the second stage of purification. Behind Vivien is
the first stage, where water is nano- and then ultra- filtered and
BTDC corridor ?Bureau Technical Dome C? (there is BTDDU at Dumont
D?Urville) Stairs to noisy building and on the right end the corridor
going down to the quiet building
Me, just back from some work outside, at the other end of corridor.
Hospital clinic room, Andrea C.
Hospital operating room.

Noisy building
Kitchen and Andrea B.
Living Room.
Quiet building
Astro Concordia lab, with the two astronomers.
Radio room, Paolo taking a tea break. The room has so many hot
computers that even though it?s -70 outside, he will often keep a
window open.
Glacio lab, Ilann.
Radio room, Ale and Djamel debating how to repair some astro equipment.
Seismology lab, Pascal.

Concordia station 75°06'06''S - 123°23'43''E
Satellite uploads at: 02.30, 09.00 and 14.00 UTC
Local time UTC + 8

This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.