In the Fridge
Dr Sean Hudson is a founding director of Expedition Medicine which
Expedition Medicine is the leading provider of expedition and wilderness medicine courses, both here in the UK and also in a number of carefully selected overseas locations.
A chance meeting at a MRT conference in 2007 led to the opportunity to help set up the most remote expedition clinic in the world. The medical clinic run by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) provides advice, support and rescue to all the expeditions on the Antarctic continent. It is a four flight to Punta Arenas, but this is only when the IL76 (jet) can land on the blue ice runway. The camp and clinic nestle under the Patriot Hills, which provide a beautiful backdrop to this most stunning of locations. Though temperatures can plummet, especially in the early part of the season, generally the weather is pretty kind, with average temperatures being around -15ºC and winds only occasionally picking up to 70 knots (120km/h).
During the season, which lasts from November to January, the camp plays host to over 300 individuals, who come to Patriot Hills to start their journey to the South Pole skiing, climbing Mount Vinsen, or just to fly out to the South Pole and experience being in one of the most incredible places on earth.
All of these people need to be assessed and seen by the clinic or by the medical team in the UK, which can be interesting as many of them speak little English and my grasp of Russian, Norwegian or Spanish extends little beyond “you have a big bum”! Most have a very good knowledge of the environment and its dangers but there is always the odd person who descends from the IL76 onto the ice runway in high heels and has a wardrobe full of miniskirts and tight tops (and newly acquired breasts).
The clinic is incredibly well thought out and has the capacity to manage most medical scenarios. The commonest complaint is of course frostbite. However most of my time was spent lecturing teams to ensure they new how to cope with the environment and avoid injury, or getting involved in the work of other departments. Putting up tents, helping with cooking, assisting the comms officers, and in the off time climbing, skiing and snowmobiling (hard life).
It was a hard but rewarding 6 weeks which Id recommend to anyone who has ever fancied a challenge.
Dr Sean Hudson
Find out more about Expedition Medicine Polar Medicine training course.