Living on the edge: How to prepare for it?

Martine Van Puyvelde, Daisy Gijbels, Thomas Van Caelenberg, Nathan Smith, Loredana Bessone, Susan Buckle-Charlesworth, Nathalie Pattyn

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Introduction: Isolated, confined, and extreme (ICE) environments such as found at Antarctic, Arctic, and other remote research stations are considered space-analogs to study the long duration isolation aspects of operational space mission conditions. Methods: We interviewed 24 sojourners that participated in different short/long duration missions in an Antarctic (Concordia, Halley VI, Rothera, Neumayer II) or non-Antarctic (e.g., MDRS, HI-SEAS) station or in polar treks, offering a unique insight based on first-hand information on the nature of demands by ICE-personnel at multiple levels of functioning. We conducted a qualitative thematic analysis to explore how sojourners were trained, prepared, how they experienced the ICE-impact in function of varieties in environment, provided trainings, station-culture, and type of mission. Results: The ICE-environment shapes the impact of organizational, interpersonal, and individual working- and living systems, thus influencing the ICE-sojourners' functioning. Moreover, more specific training for operating in these settings would be beneficial. The identified pillars such as sensory deprivation, sleep, fatigue, group dynamics, displacement of negative emotions, gender-issues along with coping strategies such as positivity, salutogenic effects, job dedication and collectivistic thinking confirm previous literature. However, in this work, we applied a systemic perspective, assembling the multiple levels of functioning in ICE-environments. Discussion: A systemic approach could serve as a guide to develop future preparatory ICE-training programs, including all the involved parties of the crew system (e.g., family, on-ground crew) with attention for the impact of organization- and station-related subcultures and the risk of unawareness about the impact of poor sleep, fatigue, and isolation on operational safety that may occur on location.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1007774
Number of pages20
JournalFrontiers in Neuroergonomics
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 Van Puyvelde, Gijbels, Van Caelenberg, Smith, Bessone, Buckle-Charlesworth and Pattyn. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Neuroergonomics
  • isolated
  • confined
  • extreme environment
  • ICE-environment
  • isolation
  • space-analog
  • Antarctica
  • training


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