Communication isn’t necessarily considered to be the most important element of being the best in any given sport. What is most important is the spectacle or achieving a world-first and carrying this off with some kind of swagger. But it’s different if your world-class attempt is to spend a year in isolation, at the most desolate polar region of the Earth, with a group of strangers who don’t speak the same language. When you’re confronted with this situation swagger and audiences fall away and utilising all known forms of communication become the most important survival tools.
An enterprise recognising the value of communication at such extremes however, is the Bank of Ireland UK. They’re hosting a series of videos, showcasing teams who make great communication an integral part their survival and retaining their sanity.
The Concordia Research Station in Antarctica, a half French, half Italian station used by the European Space Agency to conduct scientific and psychological experiments for the exploration of other planets, relies heavily on using all forms of communication and this is especially key when you’re in a team of 16, spending a year in isolation, living and working together. Days on end with total strangers in the most remote place on earth has been a huge challenge to Concordia, and overcoming multicultural barriers including language and significant cultural differences has been a vital cog in the safe running of the station.
Concordia Station, Antarctic. Credit: A. Kumar
In the following video, Eoin MacDonald-Nethercott, an ESA (European Space Agency)-sponsored medical-doctor at Concordia, talks us through his time at the Station as an honorary Frenchman and Italian. He describes navigating the tensions of isolation through food, football and socialising. Coming together and communicating whilst working through everyday activities, helps build understanding between the crew, and allows for the smooth running of the station – ultimately creating the basis of their happy survival.
“When you’re in an Antarctic base with a bunch of astronomers, cosmologists, just plain nightowls on the one hand, and a technical crew that’s up bright and early for a respectable 8-6 working day on the other, any semblance of normality disintegrates. I came here expecting to have to cope with boredom and a lack of stimuli, to ration the things like entertainments, gym time and movies to nurse myself through. But the truth is I haven’t had a moment of dullness since I got here. Maybe I’m lucky with the job I have and team we have this year. There’s more variety in my work here than in the hospitals at home. And there is no money, no shopping, no traffic, no commute, no mobile phones and no bills. Really, there’s a lot going for it! The very refreshing, pleasant contrast to my normal working life is that (a) I have time to have friends and (b) I work with the same people day in, day out. That is a really nice change.” – An excerpt from Dr MacDonald-Nethercott’s diary whilst at Concordia