Feb.16: Antarctica Research Trip Report by Lee Eun Jung

Researchers perform fieldwork in various places, but it is not often that one goes to Antarctica. On Feb. 16, the Biotope Salon heard from a speaker who did just that. Ms. Lee Eun Jung, a science reporter for Korean Broadcast System(KBS) and a visiting scholar at GSII, shared the research she conducted on in the earth’s coldest continent between October and November last year.

In her presentation titled, “How to Survive in Antarctica as a Researcher,” Ms. Lee, who stayed in Jang Bogo Station, one of the two Korean stations operated by the Korean Polar Research Institute, introduced what life is like in Antarctica, where summer starts from around October through March, and winter is between April and September. Temperaturewise, the warmest during summer can reach as high as 0℃ while winter can become as low as –89.2℃. While the sun is up all day for several weeks during summer, Antarctica goes through polar night between April and August, when there is no sunlight.

Research projects undertaken by the Korean teams include polar life science, geology and climate science, which help expand the understanding of the earth’s history, climate change and future resources. In the case of  Ms. Lee, however, her focus was on the psychology of the expedition members who spent a year in Antarctica. While a majority of researchers visit the station during the sunny summer months, the 16 expedition members who she interviewed were assigned to stay throughout the year including the dark cold winter months with just themselves to maintain the base and research data that were being collected there.

The interviewees were all male and aged between 29 and 62, and held different tasks as the leader, doctor, engineer, researcher and chef. Based on her interviews, Ms. Lee analyzed that the members experienced three types of stress which derived from work, living environment and psychosocial factors. Many members suffered from loneliness, depression, anger and irritations and difficulty of sleeping, she said, adding that many also experienced interpersonal conflicts. The timing of her interviews were the final few months of their year at the base. Ms. Lee observes that some kind of counseling via satellite during the winter months could be useful to reduce the level of their stress and improve the psychological conditions of the expedition members. Afterwards, participants discussed that comparison between expedition members of other countries as well as with people in other fields would be interesting.

(Setsuko Kamiya: MA student, GSII)

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