Friday, 18 November 2016

How did I end up here?

Well, where to start? I'm writing this from my hotel room in Cape Town, South Africa. Tomorrow myself and 15 other British Antarctic Survey (BAS) employees will board an aeroplane for a 5 hour flight to Antarctica - the coldest, highest, windiest and driest continent on earth. We will be joining 80 other scientists and tradespeople at BAS's Halley VI research station, a remote outpost on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Western Antarctica. For some it is a short trip - a busy 3 months in the Antarctic Summer with almost perpetual sunlight and relatively mild temperatures around 0 degC. For some of us it is a longer undertaking though - 16 of us will be there for 18 months. Through the cold dark winter when the sun disappears below the horizon for 105 days and temperatures can drop to -55 degC. For 8 months we will be physically cut off from the outside world - no ships, no aircraft, no resupply and no rescue. Astronauts on the International Space Station will be able to get to help faster than we can!

So why am I here?

It's a good question and I'm not really sure I have a good answer for you.

To go to Antarctica is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Encounters with various Antarctic veterans over the past few years has only added to my desire. Tales of daring escapades in the land of Scott and Shackleton made a 12 hour night shift in A&E seem somewhat mediocre. So in 2011 after 18 months working in New Zealand and no proper job I applied to the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. My first attempt was unsuccessful. 'We like you but you need some more experience' was the reply. Fast forward to 2015 - 3 years of training in Emergency Medicine in North London and some exams under my belt I reapplied and got interviewed. Standing on the Platform at Finchley Road Station on the 6th November 2015 I got a call from my now boss. 'Would you like to go to Halley next year?' she said. 'I most certainly would I replied'.

The past year has been a whirlwind to be honest. In May 2016 I moved to Plymouth and met the BASMU team, the others Doctors heading south to BAS bases/ships and started the process of turning myself from a A&E doctor used to working in a well staffed hospital to one who has to do a little bit of everything by themselves with help only a phone call and 9000 miles away. (More on that at a later date). Has it worked? I hope so - the next 18 months will tell.

And so tomorrow is the final step to getting there. Friends and family have been hugged goodbye, thermals and suncream have been packed, camera batteries are charged. To say I'm nervous would be an understatement but I'm also unbelievably excited. This has been a long time coming and I'm certainly planning on making the most of it!

You can follow the upcoming adventures on the blog here or:
On twitter: @HalleyVIDoc
On Instagram: halleyvidoc
or email me:

Internet access is somewhat limited down south - particularly during the summer months so post may be somewhat sporadic but I will try to answer any questions and keep things up to date as I can.

Bye for now


1 comment:

  1. Good luck Neil, can't wait to read and hear all about it! Sounds like a propper adventure.