Concordia sits on a plateau 3200 m above sea level. The location offers researchers from disciplines as diverse as astronomy, seismology, human physiology and glaciology a unique laboratory for their studies.
No transport is possible in the winter because of the permanent darkness and temperatures as low as -80°C. At these temperatures, brake fluid and even fuel freeze, making it impossible to reach the base.
To cater for the arrival of summer camp, the winter crew must prepare the base. To start, the quarters are thoroughly cleaned to welcome the guests. The 2 km-long runway is cleared by bulldozer and its marker flags dug out from up to a metre of wind-swept snow.
For the permanent crew it is a time of mixed feelings, says veteran Concordian Eoin Macdonald-Nethercott: "After spending months alone there is a bit of trepidation, you know everything is going to change. But after the first plane lands, within a week you are back to feeling it is normal."
Three separate expeditions arrive with heavier equipment. The 1100 km traverse from the Dumont d'Urville station takes ten days to complete, climbing over 3000 m in the process.
This year, the summer campaign will focus on two main programmes: astronomy and glaciology. The new ESA-sponsored medical research doctor will arrive with the new winter crew later this month to study the effects of isolation in preparation for future long-duration space missions.