Domenico Romano, astrophysicist and glaciologist, spent the winter at Concordia in 2011. Specially for this blog he wrote about the last aircraft leaving, signalling the start of the long winter.
Credits: IPEV/PNRA-D. Romano
The arrival of February marks the end of the summer campaign in Concordia. Most of the logistics personnel start leaving the base and human presence is reduced in a few days from 60 people to around 20. Among these 20 people are the crew that stay on for the whole winter. The workload intensifies in the run-up to the last plane departure.
Vehicles are stored safely in a cave called the Tubosider, as vehicles cannot be used in the winter due to the fuel freezing. The Tubosider is sealed using a large excavator that compacts ice at the cave’s entrance to prevent snow coming in during the winter storms to come. The excavator is the only vehicle to withstand the harsh temperatures of winter. Its operation is crucial, as the machine and its operator are required for Concordia’s drinking water. The excavator takes snow from specially reserved areas and puts them in a melting tank to melt the ice into water through a system of heaters.