Icy water

In: Antarctica

“The nights are cool and I’m a fool
Each star’s a pool of water, cool water
But with the dawn I’ll wake and yawn
And carry on to water, cool, clear, water”

Bob Nolan – 1936

Water comes from the tap, just like at home, but drinking water comes from another tap, not like home. In Concordia, we have 3 separate water systems that are connected through the waste system. Drinking water is the first, Grey Water is the recycled wastewater we use for the shower, and Black Water isn’t recycled just yet.

We use fresh snow for the drinking water. It’s scooped up with a massive Caterpillar 953B, transported to the snow melter, and sterilized before we drink it. After the arrival of our French mechanic Gaêtan, I had the opportunity to give the collection process a try myself. Oh yeah! Is it super cool to drive a 15 ton yellow bulldozer in -40 Celsius? Hell yes, it is!

After a basic lesson from Gaêtan, it was time for my first assignment: park the Caterpillar and try to connect the big bucket to it. Not as easy as it sounded! It steers just like a tank, and even though I saw on the  Discovery Channel that a tank is steered by braking the left or right caterpillar track, it’s not like I’ve ever been inside a tank to practice…

So I put it in gear by using another handle that moves forward/backwards, then break with the 2 foot paddles- left, right, a bit more left, ok, back again…I got there in the end, but it was a slow process!

Once the 1500 liters bucket was firmly attached up front, I was allowed to drive to the clean snow area and try to get my first scoop of fresh snow! It was a success and after a short ride back to the base to dump the snow in the big snow melter, I went back for scoop number 2!

“But with the dawn I’ll wake and yawn
And carry on to water, cool, clear, water”

The first sip of water that night tasted much sweeter, and my appreciation for the process a little greater!

Temperature -38,8 C. Windchill -55.5 C. 24 hours of daylight.

Wanderlust Doc

With the speed of life

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  • Jan G Bantjes

    February 14, 2016 at 13:44

    Very intersting and challenging.
    How do you melt the water?
    Do you have fuel for heating.
    What’s the temp inside the cabins?



  • Wanderlust Doc

    February 14, 2016 at 13:51

    Hi Jan,

    we melt the water by heating it up, we use quite some diesel for that unfortunately, in the future we hope to recycle even more water so we can save more fuel. The station is heated to a quite warm 21degrees.


  • Icy water | Chronicles from Concordia

    February 15, 2016 at 13:06

    […] Living in isolation in the remoteness of Antarctica how do you get drinking water? One thing that Concordia research station has enough of is snow. ESA-sponsored medical doctor Floris van den Berg explains all, taken from his personal blog: […]


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