You’ll need to be a US citizen, have a US medical licence, hold a valid passport and not averse to the cold, the snow and the dark! In return, you’ll have a unique experience, enjoyed by few others on the planet. You’ll be rewarded with fantastic other-worldly snow-scapes and acres of stars in night-time Polar skies.
The CPMO is hosted at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). Here, they support the National Science Foundation’s US Antarctic Program (USAP) and they seek a doctor to work at one of the scientific research stations in Antarctica.
The Amundsen-Scott South Pole station is one of the most isolated places on earth. CPMO are looking for an Emergency or Family Medicine physician with acute care experience who is up for the challenge of working at 10,000 feet during the depths of the Antarctic Winter.
While the clinical load is light, the opportunity to work in this remote situation will be attractive to physicians with interests in extreme/remote or altitude medicine. Practice medicine under the Aurora Australis and see the Milky Way as few others ever will, all while providing health care to the station crew.
The South Pole Station carries out exciting research in astronomy, weather, geology and supports other science missions. Deployments are 9 months, and US citizenship is required. Warm, shared accommodation is provided as are recreational facilities, internet and telephone access. CPMO are also recruiting for winter staff at the McMurdo and Palmer Stations.
For more information, please visit www.usap.gov or www.utmb.edu/polar
Call 409-772-3626 if you are interested or apply on-line at www.utmb.edu/polar.
Secure complimentary flights from Miami to board expedition ship, National Geographic Explorer in Buenos Aires on 7th December for the iconic Antarctic Medical Conference, when you book with Lindblad Expeditions & mention Expedition & Wilderness Medicine’s medical conference.
Expect breathtaking scenery and huge photo opportunities on this voyage; whales, penguins & a multitude of seabirds: 7th – 20th December. With CME content accredited for 10 hours by the Wilderness Medicine Society and delivered by Dr Alex Kumar.
To read more about this life changing experience visit our Antarctic web-page HERE
This offer is time limited and due to expire 3oth June 2015, so don’t hang around.
Shackleton in Space
Antarctica is a large flat egg-white expanse with bits of egg shell in it (aka the TransAntarctic mountain range) that is greater in area than India and China put together.
Exactly 100 years on from Scott and Shackleton, I travelled to Antarctica and spent around one year living at Concordia, a joint French-Italian inland Antarctic research station as the Human Spaceflight Research MD to conduct research for the European Space Agency in an attempt to understand how far human physiology and psychology can be pushed towards a future manned mission to Mars. It is one of the most remote outposts on the planet located in one of the world’s most extreme environments.
The most extreme place on the planet?
Environmental extremes experienced there include:
* Enduring around 3 months of complete darkness, where the sun does not rise above the horizon
* The world’s coldest temperatures dropping down below minus 80 degrees Celsius
* Complete isolation with no means of escape for 9 months, simulating long duration space missions and life on the surface of another planet
* Chronic hypobaric hypoxia being located at around 3800 metres equivalent altitude
* Nothing lives outside the station for over 1,000 kilometres, in nearly all directions.
* Our nearest neighbours are the astronauts orbiting the earth on board the International Space Station, and then some Russians snowed* in at Vostok station (* = it does not actually ‘snow’ inside Antarctica).
Answering the job advertisement for what may be the coldest and loneliest job in the world, I found packing my mind for a year away was much more difficult than my bags.
“The uttermost end of the world”
To travel to the moon from the base would only take three days – far less than the three weeks it took to fly from London to Hobart and then to sail by icebreaker across the Southern Ocean, battling high seas, whales and being stuck in the ice pack with leopard seals before reaching a 60,000-strong rookery and football stadium’s worth of Adélie penguins. The stench nearly turned me back home.
Antarctica is an ill defined space in people’s minds. It incorporates South Georgia and other sub Antarctic islands, which are in fact closer to South America than the continent of Antarctica itself. People can and have sailed to South Georgia even during its winter. Whereas the interior of Antarctica remains an inpenetrable block of ice. Even a team led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ (Coldest Journey) could not penetrate the continent’s interior during winter.
The longest on-call
Antarctica is full of surprises (and penguins). Adding to that it was the first time since the station opened 10 years previously that there would be just one doctor overwintering – that was to be me, since another doctor left the base just before winter began. It was a game of Tag and I was ‘it’. I can’t complain now about a set of nights or hardship on-call after doing nearly a year on-call in Antarctica.
The journey wasn’t over, it had just begun. After flying a further five-hour flight inland in a Twin Otter over the Great White Silence, a blank white canvas. Perhaps God had forgotten to paint this continent, intentionally I thought, as he took rest on the 7th day.
Coldest science on earth
Antarctica’s ice layer protects and hides its secrets like a thick skin, stretched over the bedrock many thousands of feet below. Recent efforts at Russia’s Antarctic Vostok station tapped the veins of the sub-glacial lakes, which flow deep beneath the surface, that may harbour evidence of life forms of our distant past. But as yet, this continent’s secrets remain teasingly elusive.
Ice cores plumbed out of the 800,000-year-old ice have told a story of their own – the impact of mankind on Earth and climate change. Century-old equipment was used in the discovery of a hole in the ozone – earth’s own flesh wound, which may yet scar over.
We conducted earth science research including glaciology, meteorology, seismology and astronomy, alongside my own research (on the adaptation of human health and well-being to this extreme environment), and trying to help in arranging the jigsaw pieces involved in sending a manned mission to Mars and back.
Curtain of darkness
As winter sets in, you stop living and start surviving. Temperatures plummet below minus 80C. In May the sun sets for the last time. A curtain of darkness falls, leaving you to endure three months of 24-hour darkness. Spinning uncontrollably through the world’s time zones, leaving you gasping as you wake from unforgiving, hypoxia-euphoric vivid dreams. The cold and isolation begin to seep in and your mind begins to stretch uncomfortably, as your senses become blunted by the sensory deprivation.
There is light at the end of the tunnel as multicoloured lights flicker overhead in the darkness, the Aurora Australis.
One way journey to the great beyond
Once you enter the Antarctic winter, you begin a personal journey of discovery and you will learn a lot about yourself. You cannot turn back or go home. Once that last plane departs, there is only one way up, you have to summit and there is no quitting, only crying along the way.
Living and over-wintering as the only British national among a team of 13 Europeans in the most extreme and remote environment on the planet was not ‘easy’ but not so challenging as it was predictable. As in any stressful environment living in an Antarctic station can be likened to living in one of the Old West frontier towns – a continual sense of not knowing who is going to shoot at who next or why. As a team, we ate, slept, exercised, conducted science and survived alone frozen into the landscape in close proximity. We all survived.
Not wanting to spoil the winter and many stories that came from it, I can summarise wintering in Antarctica in one sentence… it is one of the world’s only psychological marathons and one of the Earth’s greatest, most magnificent and most peculiar journeys.
‘I’ve been to Antarctica’
Tourists are so often bedazzled by Antarctica. And the public are often impressed by those who have been there. It certainly is special. However, all in all, you can say you have ‘been’ to Antarctica if you have flown in to work there for a few weeks or been on a cruise down there, during the breezy summertime. Take heed, when this is so often thrown about in conversations and talks.
We are all just tourists when it comes to Antarctica
Really, you can never say you actually know Antarctica until you have wintered there. And not just anywhere. A winter on a subantarctic island such as South Georgia, Antarctica’s coast or peninsula (-20C climbing and skiing activities which can be accessible during the winter) is nothing like a winter in the interior of the continent (-80C in hypoxic darkness that is inaccessible for months). And even a well connected wifi ridden winter in the interior nowadays is nothing like a broken radio winter in Shackleton’s day. If you want real isolation, you’ll have to bury your head and phone in the ice.
My own conclusion? Simple – Watching people around you unfold and unzip at the seams during wintering as a doctor is an interesting and can be an unforgiving past time. For sure, people aren’t made of the same grit and stuff these days. If you want to really experience something try to do it properly. Challenge yourself and mankind. What have you got to lose? … Only a few fingers or toes.
Alex has since worked in different space analogue environments and constructed the ‘White Mars’ research protocol for Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
As an accomplished writer, photographer and public speaker, he has published articles in BBC News, New York Times and by invitation, recently held an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society, featured in The Guardian.
Alex now talks and works internationally for different organisations and humanitarian agencies, conducts global health research and continues to enjoy taking photos behind his camera and presenting in front of cameras for TV including BBC and Discovery, alongside his day to day NHS job and is a member of the EWM faculty.
Alex is continuing important work on a patent for a unique blend of cheerful and optimistic British sarcasm.
More information can be found at: www.AlexanderKumar.com
If taking part in research that paves the way for space exploration appeals, then the European Space Agency would like to hear from you. You will spend 12 months living in one of the most secluded places on earth at the remote Concordia Antarctic station. After training spacecraft pilot training, you will conduct simulations and various experiments which will assist space mission designers. Applicants must be from an ESA Member State. Application deadline 1 April.
Medicine in the wilderness by Nick Johns-wickberg – see the full article here
Dr John Apps’ career in wilderness medicine has taken him on some extraordinary adventures. He now passes on his skills to other doctors.
There aren’t many people in the world who can run a marathon, let alone one at nearly 5000 metres elevation through the Himalayas. Rarer yet is a doctor who can keep up with the runners and tend to them in harsh conditions if anything goes wrong. John Apps is such a doctor. Overseeing the medical services for the Everest Marathon is all in a day’s work for the British-born adventure doctor and part-time GP.
‘I stationed a number of doctors on the descent route and my job was to jog behind the slowest person,’ Apps said. ‘There’s a lot of up and down, there’s a lot of rough ground, a lot of yaks to avoid.’
Apps’ work throws a wide range of challenges his way – yaks included. Overseeing the marathon isn’t easy, but Apps said the hardest part of that job is convincing the ultra-competitive runners to take it easy while acclimatising to the high altitude. He has also provided medical support for an extreme marathon in Antarctica, where the flatness of the course is offset by the fact that, as he puts it,
‘it’s just blooming cold’.
‘You’re hauling in all these huge lungfuls of air at minus 15°C and it does take it out of people,’.
Author: Petronella Watson
University of Otago, Wellington, Mein St, PO Box 7343, Wellington South 6021, New Zealand.
Correspondence to Petronella Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“the Corresponding Author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, an exclusive licence (or non exclusive for government employees) on a worldwide basis to the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd to permit this article (if accepted) to be published in BMJ editions and any other BMJPGL products and sublicences such use and exploit all subsidiary rights, as set out in our licence.”
Ethics approval: NA.
In July 2011, Queenstown welcomed the course participants with a bitter winter storm: minus 14 degrees, a heavy snow fall, flight cancellations and road closures. This was the second big snow fall of the winter and we were thankful to arrive safely at the Lodge set high on the Pisa range to enjoy good food and great company. Course convener Dr Simon Dalton and the other staff (Dr Sean Hudson, Dr Dick Price and Mr Simon Murfin) welcomed participants to the course, and kicked things off with an introductory lecture on polar medicine and standard operating procedures.
After an early night everyone was ready to acquire the practical skills required for life in this cold environment. We started off with an introduction to snowmobiles – the mechanics, recovering stuck machines, riding and rescue techniques. After a while confidence and doughnuts, grew dramatically, until our arms were exhausted. Then we moved onto the care and use of dogs as a means of transport. Local enthusiasts introduced us to their packs and discussed general care and handling (not to mention some of the dog sledding journeys and races which they had competed in). We each took the dogs for a run by ourselves, gaining an appreciation for the affinity so many polar explorers, scientists and locals have for the enthusiastic Husky and Malamute.
In the evening we had an informative and inspiring talk on hypothermia, cold water immersion and frostbite – tales from the reaches of Everest’s summit to Scott Base and lonely polar research boats. The session covered recognition and management of these important conditions as well as their underlying pathophysiology and an overview of the limitations imposed by the wilderness environment. We then proceeded to hear much more about Dr Dick Price’s amazing life and career; from hair-raising mountain rescues to idyllic igloo building with his son.
Another beautiful dawn brought with it cross country skiing and an overview of the history and development of skiing as a sport and means of transport. Great practice for what was to come! Another half day was spent on navigation techniques in the often confusing white cold landscape. We also had introductions to the principles and practice of fire lighting and snow caving. Evening lectures covered altitude related illness and pre-expedition planning.
Wednesday brought preparation for our own fast approaching overnight expedition. We covered some practical scenarios, wilderness resuscitation, avalanche safety as well as transceivers and communications. The afternoon brought tutorials in stoves, shelter building and a briefing for our trip. We rounded off the day with a movie on Shackleton’s amazing Antarctic adventure and later that evening guest speaker Marcus Waters described some of his expeditions kayaking in the Antarctic Circle and skiing across the Greenland ice sheet – a real eye opener to the realities of Polar travel.
As the sun rose again and the skies changed from black to purple and pink to blue, we picked up our skis, fully prepared for an overnight expedition out into the wilderness. The morning was spent passing through iconic Pisa Range valleys, and quite a few spills and tumbles. We eventually made it to the selected spot for a late lunch and then shelter building. The afternoon was spent jumping, shoveling and carrying until quinsy’s, igloos and snow caves were fitted out with all our kit. After soup, pasta and chocolate for dinner, Dick set off some celebratory fireworks and a surprisingly comfortable, warm sleep was had.
Yet another fresh clear day followed, and after jumping on our snow cave (just as one delights in destroying a sand castle, except with notably more effort) we packed our bags and skied back to the lodge. At the lodge, there was a rush for the showers, but by lunch time everyone was enthusiastically chatting about their snow cave experience.
As we glumly packed our bags, and pulled out the expedition handbook for reading on the bus back to Queenstown, we reflected on the week. Certainly for most people the course taught much about survival in cold and remote areas. Another important aspect of the week was the camaraderie generated between participants. I’m sure the newly struck friendships will continue for many years to come.
Further information on Expedition & Wilderness Medicine UK’s CME approved courses for medical professionals may be found at: www.expeditionmedicine.co.uk