Wednesday, 5 October 2016

On Our Way at Last!

This all started about five years ago. I had just begun my second year
as a junior doctor and I saw an advertisement on my email for doctors
willing to work in Antarctica. It wasn't quite the famous Shackleton
newspaper advertisement where he said "Men wanted for hazardous
journey..." but it was enough to get me thinking.

I emailed the name on the ad and said "you know, if it isn't too much
trouble, could I please have a job when I'm a bit more experienced?"
Four years later I was sat at an interview panel, not quite, but almost,
begging for the job.

I was so worried that I might miss the call whilst driving home to
Cardiff from the site of the interview in Plymouth that I drove to
Glastonbury and sat in a coffee shop waiting for their call. When the
Lady High Duchess (you know who you are) of BAS phoned me and explained
that she was my new boss, I let out a strangled whoop and hissed
frantically down the phone "That's wonderful. Thank you so, so much!"
And then I did a strange victory dance.

I dined out on the fact that I was going to Antarctica for 9 months
before I actually had to start my training in Plymouth. People started
coming out of the woodwork saying they knew people who had worked down
there. It seemed like everyone had been down at some point! This was

We finally started training in May 2016; four doctors who will be at
Rothera, King Edward Point, Halley and on the James Clark Ross. We
received six months of training in every specialty that might be useful
in a remote environment. But on the 20^th of September, trotting up the
gangway to my new home for the next nine months, there was pretty much
just one word echoing in my head. "F-f-f......................"

Two weeks later, how do I feel? Pretty happy to be honest. Our first
week was a little bit trying. By the end of it we had made our way out
of the Channel and into some bad weather. It wasn't terrible as the crew
kept pointing out, but it was certainly bouncy enough that some people
were starting to look a trifle delicate.

Happily my sea-stomach was okay but my sea legs absolutely sucked; every
time we hit a big wave I'd go bounding down the corridor like I was
wearing 10 league boots, cannoning into every pointy projection that I
could find. And then minutes later, desperately struggling uphill, like
a little old man in a force 9 gale.

We had one particular night that was really bad. The captain had warned
me to secure everything in the surgery or it tends to go flying about
when it's rough and then you have the joy of cleaning up a lot of KY
jelly in the morning. I duly tidied everything in the surgery and my
cabin away into drawers. So it was all tidy, but what I didn't realise
was the level of noise that would be generated. Everything that could,
started rattling. I would lie there for about ten minutes, trying to
convince myself that, yes, I could sleep through this...before charging
out of bed to find whatever was rattling or sliding about this time and
wrapping it up in my knickers.

By dawn, the cabin was covered in my pants. And I was kneeling on the
floor, crazy haired, expression wild, waiting for the next big roll and
the next thing to make a noise. At this point, I realised that just like
hospital medicine, this job was going to be a lot less glamorous than it

No comments:

Post a Comment