The Best Doctor In Antarctica

Oct 2 2012 @ 8:33am

Gavin Francis spent ten months as base doctor at a research station a few hundred miles from the South Pole. Some of the items he put in medical kits intended for use "by exploration parties probing Antarctica’s heart":

I packed laxatives and local anaesthetics, elastoplasts and eye drops. A bottle of vitamin pills to prevent scurvy. Scalpels, catheters and a collar should anyone break his or her neck. Some of the most useful items, considering the risk of falling into a crevasse, were the few rolls of Plaster of Paris.

What an earlier Antartic explorer, Ernest Shackleton, packed in 1907:

The kit carried a preparation to treat colic that combined tincture of cannabis with tincture of chilli pepper. Ginger was used as a carminative, a sonorous word that I had to look up (it stops farting). Cocaine was dripped in the eye to cure snowblindness, and chalk ground up with opium was used for diarrhoea. No antibiotics in 1907 of course. Perhaps the only medications that Shackleton carried that we would still use today were aspirin and morphine.