Every day, we get request for material from our old issues. Some of the requests are particularly fascinating. Around Christmas, for instance, we heard from a woman who wanted a copy of our 1958 article, “I Lived With the Russians in Antarctica,” by Gordon D. Cartwright. When we read in her e-mail that she was “a specialist in Antarctica and Antarctic exploration,” we just had to contact her.
The woman is Lucia Simion, an Italian who has, to use her term, “over-wintered” at the Concordia Station in Antactica. She told us,
“I am not the only one, since many other people, women and men, researchers and technicians, are under the spell of this lonely place at the end of the world. The air sparkles with millions of tiny snow crystals and – except for the snow that cracks under your thick Sorel boots—there is a huge, fantastic silence.”
This Concordia station consists of a few buildings surmounted by two white towers. Even by Antarctica standards it’s near nothing: “far from the Ross sea and the Dumont d’Urville sea…and even far from the South Pole, 1,800 kilometers away…”
One might well ask why a person would want to spend the winter in an isolated spot in the middle of the most remote continent on the planet. “Dome C is considered to be one of the best places on earth for astronomy and astrophysics,” Simion’s article states. “More and more experiments and telescopes are coming to the station. Lots of big projects are programmed for the future, including the search for extra-solar planets, observations in the infrared spectrum, and the study of cosmic microwave background radiation.” .
Between 1997 and 2004, “Dome C hosted the successful EPICA project (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica), during which the most ancient ice to date in Antarctica was retrieved—a climatic archive spanning over 800,000 years.”
The Concordia station is European, being owned and operated by two countries – France and Italy. As an Italian who lives in France, Ms. Simion fits right in. “Most of the time people go along very well,” she writes. But there can be conflict, “especially about…FOOD. Yes, it’s hardly believable, but Italians and French have different tastes. So the chef must prepare French and Italian food!!! One day snails…the other day risotto!” Saturdays are special: “Pizza party for everybody”.
The article Ms. Simion requested concerned an American meteorologist who spent a year with Soviet scientists at the South Pole. It must have been an unusually warm spot for people in the middle of a Cold War.
Ms. Simion writes that the article, “is very interesting, even if it was published 52 years ago! The Saturday Evening Post was ahead of its time.”
To read the 1958 article (also with excellent photos), “I Lived With the Russians in Antarctica,” click below:
And, oh, yes, the next time you feel like complaining about winter, remember the scientists at the South Pole, and think about what “40 degrees below Zero” would feel like.