One physician's experience of providing medical care in Antarctica and on a South Pacific Island
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Visit to Scott Base
Tuesday evening, the three medical members of the Air National Guard, our flight nurse and I were invited to Scott Base by Muppet, their paramedic. He will be leaving for New Zealand after a year on the ice so he wanted to have us over for a visit.
Our visit began by a brief wait at Derelict Junction for Muppet to arrive. He picked us up in a Toyota diesel 4 wheel drive SUV. When we arrived at the base we could see the pressure ridges in the glacier. These form from the compression of glacial ice by movement of the glacier over time. There are a couple of firefighters from Virginia here this season. One of them, Matt, has a mutual friend with my daughter. This is picture of Matt, nicknamed "Turtle", and me, taken in the hospital. A friend of Turtle's has a broken leg and will be medically evacuated. Turtle was here at the hospital visiting him.
On another note, I recently got the opportunity to go out to Pegasus Field and replace flags and runway markers. Pegasus is the only airfield of its type in the world. It is a glacier on top of which is compacted snow. There are plenty of compacted snow runways and roads, but this is the only one that is compacted upon a glacier. Upon this runway land C-17 jet transports, LC-130 Cargo transports and other large military cargo transport planes. The runway is 10,000' long and the airfield can support night vision goggle landings. It has modern navigational aids such as microwave landing assistance and other devices.
I completed a six month sabbatical to Antarctica that started in September 2008 and concluded in February 2009. During that time I was a physician serving at McMurdo Station, part of the United States Antarctica Program. I was fortunate to spend eleven days at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station during this tour of duty.
Following Antarctica I embarked on an entirely different experience. In June 2009 I moved to Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It is located in the western Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea. There I served as the Chief Medical Officer at the US Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site. That contract completed November 6, 2010.
It is now time for me to return to my ob/gyn roots and settle down again. Numerous practice opportunities are available and I am carefully assessing them.