Life around the station – by Steffi Lutz

Before I came here I didn’t expect daily life in Antarctica to be so pleasant. Much has changed since the first explorers came here. I am writing this blog post sitting on a very modern looking and comfortable chair, listening to French music while the French chef (who usually works in a mountain refuge on top of Mont Blanc) is baking delicious cookies for the crew. After breakfast, which is between 6 and 8 am, everybody disappears to work. That can be construction work to extend the station, repairing snow vehicles or, in our case, science. Everybody meets again for lunch at 1 pm, which consists of a selection of salads, cheese, homemade bread, avocados and leftovers from dinner. So far the meals have been very colourful and contained a lot of fresh veggies, which we had brought with us on the plane. We were told the amount of green ingredients in our meals would significantly decrease over time. Lori is documenting the change by taking pictures of everyday’s dinner and an evaluation will be made in the end. Before we arrived the only fresh vegetable left was cabbage, and we were wondering when we would enter the next “cabbage phase”.  Dinner is served at 8 pm and naturally always comes with a dessert too – mousse au chocolat, apple tarte, or fruit salad, we can’t complain! We also can’t complain about the two fancy coffee machines (there are different opinions on which one produces the better coffee!) and three soda makers.

A normal work day lasts from 8 to 8, Monday to Saturday. Sunday is a day off and the station manager usually takes the crew on a trip somewhere nice. There are plenty of possibilities to ski, hike, climb or just go on a skidoo ride. Since the chef has also a day off, someone else has to do the cooking on Sundays. Not an easy job to cook for 20 people and sometimes wives back home are asked for advice on a meal that can’t go wrong. Everyone has successfully mastered this job so far. There are also other duties and everyone has to help out in the household. Doing the dishes is facilitated by the presence of a dishwasher and lots of laughter that is usually had. Whereas cleaning the toilets is at the top of the list of the most disliked duties. We also have a laundry machine, which is only being operated by the chef since we are at a zero emissions station and the water consumption needs to be controlled. A snow melter, which is entirely powered by renewables, produces water for drinking, cleaning, washing, and showering. Depending on their priorities and the amount of water available, it has to be decided on a day-to-day basis whether there is enough water for everything.

After dinner people usually sit together and have a chat. We are also improving our table soccer skills here and often some matches are played before going to bed. There is also a dart board, a ping pong table and a gym with some fitness equipment to keep people entertained when they are not at work or outside. Some people have theirs rooms inside the station. Others are accommodated in the annex, which has to be relocated since it started to tilt. In contrast to the station that was built on rock, the annex is on ice, which has slowly been melting over the last years. Because of the tilt it feels like being on a boat. I should probably also mention that our bed sheets are made of linen. So all in all a very pleasant and comfortable place to stay within an otherwise extreme environment.