My name is Helen Jones and I’m a doctor employed by the British Antarctic Survey. For the next nine months I’ll be working on board the James Clark Ross as she performs scientific research in the Southern Ocean and supplies the British research bases of Antarctica.
I’ve started this blog in the hopes of entertaining and giving people a chance to see some pretty pictures. I might even throw some science in occasionally!
Thursday, 10 November 2016
"The Ship Captain's Medical Guide" and Carrot Sticks
Once again, the goodship James Clark Ross is at sea! We left
the Falklands this morning after refuelling at Mare Harbour and I have to admit
that it’s a pleasure to feel the ship moving under my feet again. She feels
very subdued when we’re in port, and whilst it’s very nice to get off the ship
and go for long walks, it feels rather strange after six weeks of the ship
rocking and rolling.
One of the best things about having been at the Falklands is
that, for now at least, the ship has a stock of fresh fruit and vegetables. I’m
relatively healthy (but not zealously so) at home so I really didn’t realise
how I would crave the crunch of fresh vegetables in my diet. Eating cucumber and
salad today was almost a religious experience! The cook definitely gave me
funny looks after I raved at him. I think he imagined that I was mocking him
rather than genuinely excited by carrot sticks!
I have an entirely new set of crew and officers now which
means an entirely new set of medicals. Something to fill the time and I know
that they look forward to it too! I have a series of increasingly menacing
posters that I will put up around the ship encouraging people to attend. Next
week I move into lines from the film Taken- “I will find you and I
will...medical...you.” Too much? Impossible.
I’ve been lent an utterly fantastic book by the ship’s new
purser called “The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide” published in 1918. This thing
is absolute gold; subjects such as fireman’s cramp, dropsy, dribbling of urine
and malingering are covered in great detail. Most intriguing is the chapter
titled “Rupture”. Rupture of what is unclear and I look forward to sharing the
various things that Charles Burland MD, FRGS thought might sputter and go “ping”
whilst at sea. I thought starting the discussion with a brief foray into the
chapter on “Venereal Disease” (subtitled pox or clap) might whet the appetite.
Old Charles seems to have thought these diseases were the bane of the merchant
navy and has a host of advice for such. Apparently a “certain continental
military authority” issued instructions to its soldiers suggesting that they
applied calomel ointment to their genitalia prior to...ahem...extreme
socialising “by which means the danger of contracting syphilis is greatly
lessened.” The US Navy apparently went one step further and offered every man
returning from shore leave the option of a genital toileting “of which
Mercurial inunction of the glans forms an important part.” I don’t know what
inunction is, but I’m fairly confident that sounds unpleasant.
We’re due to arrive at Signy on Saturday which should mean a
lot of hard work for everyone. Signy station isn’t occupied over the winter so
a lot has to be done to make it habitable for the team of 7-8 people who inhabit
it over the summer months. Snow has to shovelled away from outside of the buildings,
ice may need to be removed from the insides if there has been water ingress,
fresh water needs to be plumbed in and the generator needs to be started up. In
addition to all of this, there’s the entirety of the summer’s supplies to be
delivered, either by our cargo tender boat or across the sea ice if Signy’s
harbour is still iced over. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a speedy relief
though, with plenty of time for exploring!