Humor and perspective were similarly useful below the water. “We’d say things like, ‘Life sucks, but at least the ocean’s not coming into the submarine,’ and we’d laugh,” he said. “Sailors have dark humor, but it helped.”
One informal rule to maintain comity on the sub was to “assume good intent,” Cmdr. Marquet said. “If we bumped into each other on the submarine, we’d just say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’” If someone is sharp with you, he suggested not jumping to conclusions. Start by assuming they respect you. Consider that their behavior might be the result of environmental stressors, “which now could be day after day being at home on Zoom calls.”
Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut who went on two space shuttle missions, said routine was vital to boost spirits. “Having a regular schedule was very important to us in space,” he said. “When there’s nothing on the schedule, your mind starts wandering.”
To maintain harmony, Mr. Massimino added, clean up after yourself. “In space, if someone’s untidy it could go south quickly.” (Plus, everything floats.)
While routine was important for a sense of normalcy, Ms. Poynter, the “Biospherian,” added: “Every now and then, we found we needed to go a little wild in a positive way, and create an event that pops up out of the background noise of everyday living.” In the Biosphere — remember, this was back in the early ’90s — it was really different and exciting for us to get on the phone and jam music with people around the world.”
Creating different environments within Biosphere 2’s living space was also helpful, she said, pointing out that during the pandemic, we effectively have one setting. In your home, you need to create different types of experiences “so it’s not all this gigantic mush.” Getting on a video call with co-workers, Ms. Poynter said, counts as a different experience, or going for a walk outside with people who aren’t on lockdown with you, even if it’s cold.
Jeffrey Donenfeld, an investment manager who spent three months in Antarctica working as a cook at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, told me what made his time in the remote location bearable. “What got us through was that we all had a mission, that we were all in it together,” he said. “And that’s something I’ve tried to reiterate with my wife and family now, like, ‘We’re having tough times, let’s just stick together and stay safe, and we will get through this.’”