Dr. James Bowyer, a medical doctor for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), tells of life in Antarctica.
Since 2019, Dr. Bowyer has been based at the Rothera Research Station, a centre for biological research and a hub for supporting deep-field and air operations.
Standing on the Devon coast, my phone rings.
“Hi James, we’d like you to look after Rothera for us. Are you happy to take the job?”
“Yes, of course!”
After an hour-long interview only that morning, I have just signed up to work in Antarctica for eighteen months, providing medical cover for a research station of 27 people in the winter, 160 in summer. I would be the only doctor for at least half of that time, with only narrow windows for medical evacuation in case something goes wrong. My patch in the summer consists of an area the size of Europe, with deep-field teams scattered in some of the harshest environments on Earth.
But then again this is a job I’d been working towards for a decade. Starting as a medical student reading about the desert explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, I had slowly expanded my interest into other remote environment pioneers and had become enthralled with the exploits of Scott, Shackleton, and the other expeditions of the Heroic Age of polar exploration. Sitting reading about them in a damp flat in Fulham, it suddenly struck me that I could be doing this myself rather than just reading about it.