Derya on December 14th, 2010

Looking forward to being back home, little did I know that there was a determined and hard-working beard contest participant in my own house……

Yesterday when Hanu, Clay and I finally reached Boston, I knew my husband was going to be at the airport to pick me up. I was looking all around for him, and at one point I saw someone who had his body shape and clothes, but whoever this was, he had the wrong head! I stared and stared at this man’s face, and it clearly was not my husband, though everything from the neck down was correct. Somehow if he was my husband and I didn’t remember him, he was not going to be my husband anymore. He got closer and closer and my shock got bigger and bigger. This was Elron; without saying anything for 7 weeks, he had decided to grow a beard, and now he was sheepishly smiling at my face, proud of himself and the reaction he had gotten out of me….

Back on the JCR, once the beard contest was over most contestants shaved immediately for fear of their women. I remember thinking to myself: “But why are these women so intolerant? These people spent 7 weeks away from home and they are entitled to grow a beard”. How shallow of me! Having been there to witness the beard growth progression of everyone, I did not think at the time that ANY of the beards on board looked bad or awkward. But being exposed to my husband’s and not being mentally prepared for the impact, I learned my lesson. (I ordered the beard to be shaved off before noon today).

Well, despite the beard, it is great to be home, and I am glad my kids remembered me and did not give me the cold shoulder (they weren’t very happy about posing for this photo, though).


I would like to thank everyone who has followed this blog and sent comments or emails sharing their excitement as if they were onboard with us. Without internet and access to what is happening in the world we left behind, the messages I got from you always cheered me up. I hope I have been able to provide you a good account of what this expedition was like and that you enjoyed following us.  Many thanks to Elron (despite the beard) for being the Cambridge, MA editor of this blog and posting the text and photos as soon as he received my emails. In the next few days, I may post or edit some things here and there, but the official coverage of our trip is now over.

=THE END=

Derya on December 13th, 2010

One of the IT gurus onboard, Paul Woodroffe has produced this great video of the JCR passing through the famous Lemaire channel several days ago.

Derya’s note: I have embedded this video on a private posting on Youtube, with Paul’s permission. Due to the nature of the soundtrack Paul has overlaid on the video, I have gotten a note from Youtube mentioning that this video won’t be viewable from Germany (somehow copyright laws work such that you can watch this video with music that is a Sony label track from the US, and the UK, and everywhere else, but not Germany.)

Derya on December 13th, 2010

Leaving the JCR after an extended cruise was a sad time for all of us; on the 11th, we said our goodbyes and headed to the Stanley airport. For those of us traveling to both Europe and North America, there was still a long journey before reaching home.  We first flew into Punta Arenas, Chile, from Stanley, and then continued on to Santiago. Our flight schedules gave us almost a full day to explore Santiago. We started at Plaza de Armas and visited the Cathedral while there was a Sunday morning service going on, walked around the fish and vegetable markets before the afternoon crowds poured in and then took the funicular at San Cristobal to see a bird’s eye view of the city. Enjoying the panorama, we had a glass of the ‘refreshing national drink’ mote con huesillo. I thought the architecture and ambiance of some parts of Santiago were very similar to the Basmane neighborhood in Izmir (I am a probably little homesick by now). And then when I found myself comparing Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Nobel-prize winning (1971) poet to Yorgo Seferis, a Greek Nobel prize winning (1963) writer from my hometown Urla, Izmir, I decided to stop thinking so hard and just enjoy Santiago in the few hours we had left.

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Derya on December 13th, 2010
I have written about our cruise and the JCR for 6 weeks now. We have lost our AUV, then found it, twice. We have been out on sea ice, dug snow pits, drilled holes, worked from breakfast to dinner eating our lunches picnic style on the ice, and have met most of our goals. As I said many times, none of this would have been possible without the help and support from the wonderful crew of the JCR. Behind every great crew, of course, is a great captain. Our captain did everything in his power to maximize our science time; he broke ice until 2 in the morning in order to get us from a station to next with as little delay as possible; when we were at a station, or carrying out an AUV recovery operation, put our safety first, watching us every minute from the Bridge. I personally got caught by him twice doing things I shouldn’t have been doing; one time he announced over the radio: “Derya don’t go too near that penguin, there’s a crack in the ice there” while I was trying to take my 3,000th penguin photo too close to the water’s edge and one day another announcement came thru the radio: ” Jeremy, please inform everyone on the ice not to get within 5 meters of the mooring lines. They are under tension and may snap” exactly five seconds after I had pushed my sled underneath the mooring line, and crawled over it myself. Susanne, similarly, walked down the gangway one time without her flotation device, and she immediately got nailed on the radio. This is all embarrassing of course for us, but it is also very comforting that we are actually a big team and if we unintentionally get ourselves into a risky situation, it is very likely that the rest of the team will fix that. During dinners, we had quite a few glasses of wine at the Captain’s table and it was interesting to learn that he is a saxophone player –even played on the radio! I visited him in his office today for a short chat so I could learn a bit more about him.

JCR's captain Burgan, photo by Rich Turner

DA: How many years have you been going to sea Captain?
C: Since 1972. So 38 years. I started out as a cadet at a British company, British Commonwealth Shipping on different ships; general cargo ships, tankers, etc. At the end of my apprenticeship in 1974, I sailed on the Bransfield, again as a cadet. During my leaves I would work on commercial ships as well, because you have to get a certain amount of sea time.
DA: Is that when you started to work for BAS?
C: 1976 is when I started to work for them. I was a 3rd officer then.
DA: How did you decide you wanted to spend most of your life at sea?
C: At the time it was the quickest way to get away from home and make some money! With JCR now we are 4 months on, 4 months off, but on other ships its is sometimes 9 months, sometimes three. It depends on what ship and what route you are going. With BAS, since 1976 I have been on every season going between the north and the south, except for two seasons.
DA: The JCR is not an ice-breaker, it is an ice-strengthened ship. Can you tell me a little bit about the differences?
C: Well, ice breaker breaks ice – that is what it does. It has a huge engine, a hugely strong hull, lots of fuel. Russians have nuclear ice breakers because you need that kind of power. The JCR is a multi-purpose ship, it is ice strengthened meaning it has more power capability than a commercial ship. But because it is not an icebreaker, it does not sail to Antarctica between roughly what is the start of the winter – March/April, until September/October. During that time, she sails north to the Arctic. For the northern trips, BAS collaborates with other institutes.
DA: Throughout your travels since the 70s, what kind of change have you observed in the Antarctic region?
C: The amount of ice certainly has decreased. There are ice shelves that have disappeared in the 1990s. During one science cruise, we were at an iceshelf that just collapsed, and we happened to be the first ones to sail through that area in history and do some science. We have also observed changes in the population of the fur seals. It seems like they have recovered. They are cute but it is hard to deal with them if you have to offload cargo! Most whales are virtually extinct, unfortunately. Sometimes, in the right seasons, we’ll see a pod of them, lots of them feeding with seals and birds around too.
DA: Whereabouts have you been aside from the Arctic and the Antarctic?
C: We worked in 1998 in the southwest Indian Ocean, studying seamounts there. Actually that was with folks from Woods Hole.
DA: During our cruise, none of the officers were qualified to steer the ship in ice, so when you had to go to bed, if we were still in ice and not open water, the ship would stop until the next day. When will the officers be able to drive through the ice?
C: That is because I need to know what we are getting the ship into, and get it out of there when I wake up the next day! So no one can steer the ship when I was sleeping. It’s a calculated risk, we don’t want to end up in a situation which will get us in trouble. Actually it’s a Catch 22 situation because I want to teach the officers but we also have to get the scientists what they need and as you know, we have to move fast from one station to another. When I first steered in ice it was years ago, I was 3rd officer.
DA: Do the satellite images help with predicting the ice conditions for the routes we take?
C: Satellite images are pretty good but we can observe the ice when we are there and judge better going through it. But satellite images are very useful. They give you a good idea about the presence of ice but until you get there you don’t know the real situation.
DA: What do you like the most about your polar trips?
C: Working down at the Antarctic is amazing. You see the penguins, icebergs, rocks at the bases. Then you have to “relieve” the bases and do all that work! (DA’s note: Relief is the name of the multi-day operation to unload the food/fuel/cargo that has been brought to the bases by the ships, and in return loading all the trash/recycle/equipment that has to leave the bases onto the ship. This time around, it is said that we delivered 1,000 tonnes of cargo to Rothera).
DA: What do you do when you are not at sea?
C: Lots of walking and got actually I divorced recently, so a whole new life awaits me! I have two children; I will get to spend some time with them. They are in the UK, my daughter is 18, and my son’s in a death metal band called Trigger the Bloodshed.

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DA: I am always confused by who works for who on the ship. Do you work for BAS?
MG: Yes, I work for BAS, joined BAS 20 years ago. I have sailed on the Bransfield (which has been replaced by Shackleton), the JCR and the Shackleton as the Radio Officer. The terminology and the rules for that has changed since, my job is called the ETO: Electric Technical Officer.
DA: What does an ETO do?
MG: My prime role is to look after the radio station, Global Maritime Distress Safety Services (GMDSS). Emergency communications constitute my primary role, but it is tiny given the other tasks I have to do. I look after all the navigation equipment; the radar, GPS etc. Then I do the regular communications – on one of the last ice stations we had I talked to the Twin Otter airplane, that was a treat. That doesn’t happen often. In the old days, we would have radio communications 3 times a day with the bases, but not anymore. I also take care of washing machines and dryers.
DA: Yesterday we heard that we passed a cruise ship in distress. Is this true?
MG: We didn’t really pass it; it was ahead of us. We didn’t get any distress calls from the cruise ship either because due to the impact of the high seas, their communication system temporarily broke down. We know about this because someone’s wife (someone who is on board) works in the cruise industry thats how we heard about it. But if they were able to send a distress call, we would have received it.
DA: Is true that the day before, we passed a Russian spy ship, which was all white?
MG: No! We passed “a cruise ship who used to work for the Russian Government” !! It’s called Akademik Ioffe – she USED TO work for the Russian Government looking for NATO submarines but now does private Arctic and Antarctic cruises.
DA: Did you start sailing right away when you joined BAS?
MG: Yes, I first sailed on the Bransfield, did the full tour from September until May. Then you’d go on the JCR for 4 months on, 4 months off for 2 years. Then you’d sail back on the Bransfield to complete this 3-year assignment.
DA: I’m sure you witness a lot of interesting things over the 20 years you have been sailing. What were the most memorable ones?
MG: I was on the Bransfield and got dragged down my bunk early in the morning one day. There were in excess of 100 minke whales in a feeding frenzy at the bow of the vessel! This was in the early 90s. Couple of years ago, around Pine Island Bay, we had another minke whale experience.
There’s another one that was quite memorable. We nearly sank on the JCR one time! I was in here, doing amateur radio and the captain knocked on the door and said: “You might want to stop that”. A big sea water valve had fallen off and now basically there was a hole in the ship and we were filling with water! I think we took in 90 tons of water, but fortunately our engineers are very good and they happened to have a piece of metal with holes drilled in the right place so within an hour we were back to normal. We were 6 miles off Bird Island (where we have a base) and there was a fishing boat nearby, so we did not send any distress calls. I phoned the Shackleton and spoke with them.
DA: What was your degree in when you joined BAS?
MG: I did a 3-year course and main qualification for going to sea as electronics engineering. You also learn M code, 20 words a minute. I did an hour of Morse everyday for 2 years, for practice. I am still that good! Out of the 25,000 contacts I have, only about 200 use Morse. Now the rules have changed too – all the deck officers are required to have radio qualifications. They have to learn how to press this red button!! But when there’s an emergency, the last thing you want is deck officers in the radio room because they should be the ones handling the emergency on the deck, trying to stop the water flow, fire, get people in the life boats etc.
DA: What do you do when you’re not sailing?
MG: What I am told to do!
DA: Do you work another job when you’re off?
MG: No, I have a wife and a teenage daughter who tell what to do! I live near Perth in Scotland, 40 minutes from the nearest city. I like geo-cashing, that is treasure-hunting with a GPS. I like to cycle when I get a chance.

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Derya on December 11th, 2010

Till snowboarding at Rothera

Till will perhaps be the only one from our science cruise who will go down the JCR Book of Records. There is now a new verb in the JCR dictionary in his honor; “To do a full-Till”. Many can attempt to do a “Full-Till” but in my opinion only a few will ever succeed at it. Doing a “Full Till” requires a great deal of mind-body interaction, a strong ability to focus on the challenge ahead and not letting any of the lesser people around you interfere with your concentration. If I were to put in words what doing a “Full-Till” encompassed, not that the experience can be described easily, this is what I would say using the fewest number of words: Eating every item on the menu, including the vegetarian alternatives; and at the end having both the dessert and the cheese plate. Before you start to imagine the grandness of this endeavor, here is a bit more about Till that you might find helpful:

DA: Where do you come from and what did you study?
TW: I am from a little village called Poettmes, 60 km north of Munich, on the Bavarian countryside. I did my undergrad degree in Bristol which was 4 years, but graduated with a master of science integrated in physics and philosophy. Then I got a master’s in applied mathematics at Cambridge University, UK. That was one year, I went then straight on to my PhD, to do sea ice physics.
DA: How did you get interested in sea ice?
TW: I did quantum information and quantum physics for my masters. For both of my masters, it was very theoretical. I was mostly interested in fundamentals of the quantum theory, last 2 years of undergrad I specialized on that; the interpretation of quantum theory, then I got bored. At Cambridge I did a course on polar oceans and climate change as a “fun class”. I found it very interesting, talked to the professor, he was looking for a phd student, so I started a phd with him.
DA: Then this is your first year of PhD?
TW: Yes, just finished my first year, into the second year now. This is my first polar trip, not to mention first time on a ship longer than 1.5 days.
DA: For this cruise,  can you explain what you did when you went on the ice?
TW: I measured the snow depths, with “maggie” the magnaprobe– a stick you stick into the snow to see how deep the snow is. I took roughly 10,000 readings in total for this cruise! It has datalogger and a gps, logs x and y coordinates of the point I am measuring, and the snow depth, with a timestamp.
DA: How will this relate to  you PhD when you go back?
TW: My phd is on deformations/mechanics of sea ice.This is important because it tells you how the ice pack is built up, what it consists of, how thick it is, how thick it can grow; gives you the sea ice as a whole picture. There are two sources of growing ice thickness, thermodynamical: growth by freezing, or growth by being pushed together. We saw a lot of that on this cruise, blocks of ice put together by wind forces, but the frozen ice was never thicker than 50-60 centimeters. And then there is how ice sheets break up and how the broken up blocks are stacked; how ridges are formed.
Ridges are piles of ice blocks, but not rubble. Classical ridges are intact sheets and get compressed. But we mostly saw ridges formed of rubble ice. Part of the project is to see how the mechanisms are different between the Arctic and the Antarctic, or how different ice regimes deform differently (i.e. thicker ice); how ice deforms with a massive snow layer on top.
DA: You’ve been in the UK many years now, then?
TW: 6 years now. My family is still in Germany. I have little sister working on malaria in Gabon. She’s doing her phD there.
DA: What do you do when you’re not working on sea ice?
TW: In my normal life, i do a lot of triathlons; swim, run and cycle. I do 3-4 a year, if I can, short ones mostly. For holiday times I go snowboarding and surfing, been to France, Portugal….
DA: Ok, now I want to ask you about the Full-Till. What did you eat when you ate the whole menu on November 16, 2010?
TW:I had cereal, a full English breakfast, consisting of bacon, beans, eggs and toast. At lunch, we ate on ice remember, I had the soup that came in a thermos, chicken teriyaki, and then the veggie option for that which was veggie teriyaki + pasta. For dinner, I had the soup again, I had the full size main course, and a full size vegetarian main course, which was risotto, some mousse-like dessert and big chunks of cheese from the cheese plate.
DA: How did that feel afterwards?
TW: I did not regret that. I am glad that I did it. It felt fairly bad and I didn’t eat much for the next few days and I don’t think I’d do it again.

Till (on the left) with Eric, photo by Mike Lewis

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Derya on December 11th, 2010
One of the #1 followers of the JCR, my dad, specifically asked me to interview the cooks on the JCR. They probably have one of the hardest jobs on board. For long assignments like 4 months on a ship, headed towards the Arctic or the Antarctic, with a crew of about 30 and a science cruise that could be up to 48 people, keeping everyone well fed and happy is no simple task. If you consider that JCR’s home port is Stanley, and Stanley does not have enough produce to feed itself, it is very challenging to get creative with the limited supply and variety of fresh items that run out quickly. Nevertheless, we had salad every day, there were apples, oranges and kiwis in the common lounge until a couple of weeks ago, and there is always a dessert we look forward to on the menu. There is no doubt that the great cooking Ash and Jamie do has kept the spirits high, but we are probably all going home a few pounds heavier.
DA: Where do you guys come from:
J: Surrey, UK.
A: Ramsgate, UK.
DA: How long have you been seagoing?
A: Since 1975. Started as a galley boy on a tanker, then became assistant steward. I’ve been to many places including the Persian Gulf, Australia…
J: 20 years now. I also started as a galley boy on a tanker. I’ve served in 3 wars now; The first Gulf War, I was on a tanker. Then for the Yugoslavia war, I was on a helicopter landing ship in a NATO base at Split, Croatia, then for the 2nd Gulf War, I was on a troop carrier. So I’ve served on tankers to military support vessels to Polar vessels, but have been to warm places as well like Brazil and Singapore.
DA: Since you’ve started 20+ years ago, have there been changes that made being a cook in a floating and rocking galley easier? Does it become second nature after a while to boil a huge pot of water in a rocking ship?
A: You always have to be aware of what is going on, it doesn’t really become second nature, there is no such thing. This ship can roll different ways at any time, you have to be conscious of what’s happening. Also now people have food allergies that they didn’t have 20 years ago. We have to adopt to those kinds of things as well.
DA: Who makes the menus and when we arrive at a port, who buys the fresh produce/food supplies?
J: Richard, the purser buys the food at port. Ash and I make the menus, usually I do the breakfast and the desserts and he does the savory recipes. At Stanley, for example, the choices for produce are quite limited and very expensive too.
DA: Do you have your own recipe books? Do you cook from different books/sources or use your own recipes?
A: The recipes come from many books, we have a good selection of worldwide chef’s recipe books. Also we get ideas from our holiday experiences in Turkey! (DA’s note: Ash spends a lot of time vacationing in Turkey and he especially likes the Limon Kolonyası, and brings a few bottles of it to the ship).
DA: At the moment, how many people are you cooking for?
J: 54 at the moment, but from lunchtime tomorrow it will be 32 (DA’s note: a day after this interview, all the science people will have left the JCR). It takes us about 4 hours to prepare and cook the lunches and dinners.
DA: Does it get difficult to come up with creative menu items when the fresh stuff runs low?
J: Yeah, the choices go down a lot. We never really run out of everything fresh, or everything we need, but we get really low. It depends on the science cruise too, the number of people and how long it is. We can go for 45 days or so without having to stock up more food.
DA: Do you have to do other tasks besides cooking? Do you have to stand watch in the Bridge, for example?
A: No. But the galley and store rooms have to be maintained. We like a high level of cleanliness. The emergency stocks need to be maintained as well. We have canned stuff there which has long shelf life. This is in case we get stuck in ice or something.
DA: What has been the most memorable from your 20+ years of sailing?
A: The places we visited. I can’t forget the smell of a river in Singapore!
J:Sailing into Capetown was quite impressive. This time we will be onboard until January 22, and then back home.
DA: What do you do when you are home?
A: Chill, relax, go to vacation in Turkey!

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Derya on December 10th, 2010
DA: Terry, we know you as the “Postman” but what do you exactly do?
TL: I travel south to Antarctica primarily to issue the new stamps for the British Antarctic Territory. These are not necessarily collector’s stamps but the stamps they use down there. But they could be very valuable in  years. Also, normally their mail gets carried by the JCR from Stanley post office whether I am onboard or not, but I didn’t bring any this time. On this trip, I am also taking mail out of Rothera.
DA: Where do you come from originally?
TL: Emsworth, in the UK.
DA: How long have you been the British Antarctic Territory Postal Clark?
TL: Over 10 years now. Once every 2 years I have to make this trip on the JCR. My first trip was on the Shackleton. When I am not on a ship, I work at a one of the schools in the UK, part time. I am not yet retired, I have 4 more years before retiring.
DA: Do you get seasick?
TL: I got seasick once. Then I got used to it. How long I am onboard depends on the ship’s itenerary. It can be little as 6 weeks or 3 months. So usually I get over it fast.
DA: We took stamps to Rothera. Are there clarks like you that travel to other bases?
TL: There’s one other I know of. We issued the stamps at Rothera, but they are sent to other bases as well. The ships or airplanes carry them, along with the rest of their the mail.
DA: On this trip you are carrying an important set of stamps, are you not?
TL: Yes, we have the centennial stamp collection for the 100th anniversary of Scott’s expedition to the south pole, 1910-1912. That is 2 sets of 8 stamps. They are made from photographs of Ponting , who was the photographer on Scott’s expedition.
DA: Is your family back at home?
TL: My wife is in Emsworth. I have twins; Graham works for a cable company selling all kinds of cable. Rachel works for the Ministry of Defense.
DA: What do you do on your free time?
TL: I collect stamps, I like to read Polar books. I take lots of photos and videos, and slides on my trips. My first time traveling to Antarctica was 2000, so I have a lot of them. Since that time, I’ve seen some modifications to Signy base, also quite a drastic reduction in snow around South Georgia Island. This worries me.
DA: What has been the most memorable out of your trips since 2000?
TL:The wildlife on all trips have been amazing. Coming thru the Lemaire channel in 2006, we saw some penguins on an ice floe with 3-4 killer whales around. They weren’t spyhopping — they had already located the where the penguins were. They were trying to rock the ice floe over to eat them! Also at Signy, one of the rubber boats(small boats the JCR has) was being chased by a leopard seal!

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Derya on December 10th, 2010
On December 2nd, as a part of the End-Of-Cruise dinner (which was scheduled assuming our cruise would be over on December 3rd, not the 11th!), we the previously announced “JR240 Beard Contest”. The male scientists on board had stopped shaving since November 7th, and us three females were appointed to judge the quality of the beards at the end of the cruise. After having serious discussions and hours of meetings about what was the most deterministic and ubiased way to judge the beards, Kerri, Susanne and I came up with a very complicated scoring rubric.
First, we ran around taking photos of all the contestants. If we had let people compete solely based on the amount of facial hair they had, there would not be a need for a contest; the winners were obvious from day 1, and that clearly was not fun. So before the dinner began, we passed out a “Beard Collage” handout for everyone to match the hair bits and pieces to the owners.
This constituted Round I of the contest and if you were a contestant, AND if you matched all beards correctly, you would earn one point for yourself. As difficult as this seemed, two people, Jeff and Ted actually matched all correctly and earned a point.
The second round was a bit easier; you had to do a catwalk and show off your beard- with a twist; you had to walk like a penguin. For this round, the three judges would score your performance on a scale of 1 to 3; 3 being the best. Ted’s penguin impersonation was quite memorable and received a full score of 9 from the judges.
The final round was taking a poll from everyone rating the actual size and looks of the beards. We passed around ballots with participants names on them, and when we tallied up the results, we gave 3 points to the person who got the most votes, 2 points to the person who got the second most votes and 1 point to the participant who got the third most votes.
And after this complicated grading scheme and tough competition, the results were as follows:
2nd runner up: Keith 1st runner up: Jeff WINNER: Ted
It was perhaps unfair that the ‘Penguin March’ round contributed the most to the scores. But in a way, justice was served since all prizes were being charged to Ted’s account, there is not too big of a problem if Ted won a cocktail and a bag of crisps from his own account.
Here is the situation of the beards prior to December 2nd.

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Derya on December 9th, 2010

Frances at Bird Island, photo by Spencer

In July of this year, our chief scientist Ted, along with representatives of other universities who would be participating in this cruise came to Woods Hole, MA, USA to discuss some logistics and plan out the trip in advance, as much as it was possible to plan in advance for a trip like this! One of the items highlighted was – SEE YOUR DENTIST BEFORE THE CRUISE, THERE WILL BE A DOCTOR “TRAINED IN DENTISTRY”, BUT NO DENTIST. Normally people are fearful of dentists themselves, and having had my 4 wisdom teeth painfully removed just a few months back, I could not imagine having a dental emergency handled by a ‘not-a-dentist-doctor’.

Little did I know that dentistry is only one of the many things a BAS doctors have to master. Read on from our short chat today with JCR’s doctor, Frances.

DA: Where did you go to medical school at:
FC: Newcastle, in England. My degree is in Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), which took me 5 years. 5 years is the standard in the UK. After your 5 years, you specialize in an area you are interested in, so it’s on the job training after that.

DA: How does admission to medical school work in the UK?
FC: In the Uk you can apply to 4 schools and you have to have the right grades. I didn’t have to for my year, but now all medical applicants have to take an exam.

DA: What did you do once you graduated?
FC: Actually before I graduated, I did a master’s (MSC – Master of Sciences) in Health Policy. Most people do this after they gradiate. In Health Policy, you learn about health economics, management and policy. I worked for 2 years as a junior doctor in Newcastle. And then worked nearly another 2 years as a radiology specialist registrar. This is in diagnostic and interventional radiology, doing MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and procedures involving such scans. Then I had my position frozen for 18 months, and joined BASMU (British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit).

DA: From radiology, how did you decide to go to Antarctica:
FC: Well, I was eating breakfast one morning, last July, got an email saying ‘doctors wanted in Antarctica’. I submitted a letter of application, a CV and then went through an interview. We had 6 months of training in Plymouth and then I was on the JCR.

DA: What kinds of things do they teach at the training regarding being a doctor in Antarctica or a polar-bound ship?
FC: You have to practice medicine in a different environment, there are different hazards, then the remoteness at the bases with no incoming or outgoing traffic for many months, the cold weather, UV radiation, and of course you are single-handed. Both on the JCR and at Halley or Rothera, there’s only one doctor. You are also doing jobs that would normally be done by other healthcare practitioners yourself such as physio, dentistry, nurse, radiographer etc. Not the mention I AM the Hospital cleaning system and have to not only keep the hospital clean, but service all the machines and sterilise all my instruments.

DA: So when did you know you were assigned to the JCR?
FC: I found out in November 2009 and I sailed on the JCR for the first time on September 28,2010. I had no ship experience before, other than sailing. Luckily I do not get seasick, not even my first days.

DA: What is the most memorable thing that happened since you have been on the JCR?
FC: There is a ceremony called “Crossing the Line”; when we cross the equator for the first time. Traditionally it is an introduction into seafaring, a celebration of crossing the equator for sailors– for people who cross for the first time. For this special occasion, king Neptune comes onboard, you have charges read out, have gunk be dumped over your head, kiss a kipper (smoked herring), get hosed off by a fire hose on the deck. It took me a week to wash the gunk off my hair.

Frances getting baptized at the Crossing the Line Ceremony. Photo by Richard Turner

DA:What is your typical day like as our doctor?
FC:On a regular day, I get up at 7:20, eat breakfast, I walk into the surgery (hospital on ship) at 0750. Until 10:00, I wait for people to show up if they have any problems. In a typical morning surgery I see people with things which they would normally go to a family doctor with (for example athlete’s foot, dry skin, coughs and colds). For the rest of my day I look after my surgery and am “on-call” for people who get injured or who develop problems throughout the day. Sunburn is a common problem – although we do provide suncream for free here.

DA: What kind of medicine do you have onboard with you?
FC: We have everything you would need in an emergency and most things you can buy from a chemist such as suncream, moisturizer, travel sickness pills, antibiotics, painkillers, skin creams, condoms, emergency contraception, blood pressure medication, asthma inhalers etc. We have every group of drugs but not necessarily every drug brand in that group. Crew are covered by BAS insurance for all cases. If there is a situation that might require them to get evacuated to Punta Arenas or Stanley, that is covered by BAS as well. We had one last year.

DA: What do you like about your time on the JCR so far?
FC: Really good scenery, people, crew… The science is interesting. I’ve made new friends. My sister bought me a Lego advent calendar, so I get to open open every day until Christmas and find a new Lego. The food onboard is good, even though now we’re down to canned and frozen fruits and veggies. The benefit of being on the JCR versus being at a base is that you get to see everything – Bird Island, KEP, Rothera, Halley…

DA: Do you have to be an ice/mountain climbing doctor to be employed by the British Antarctic Survey?
FC: No. I am an outdoorsy person and I would love to learn to ski / snowboard but have never got around to it. I like to do hill walking, kayaking, running, and have also done some ice climbing up in Scotland. If I were on a base, I’d love it and learn to ski and snowboard.

DA: What do you do onboard when you’re not doing doctor things?
FC: I used to go to the gym, play the violin, guitar and knit. Since i broke my shoulder I am reading mostly instead of guitar playing.

DA: What will you do when your BAS contract is over?
FC: I took 18 months off from my radiology job. I will spend 18 months with BAS, then go back to being a radiology specialist for 3 more years.

DA: Ok, bonus question. Have you been to Turkey?
FC: I have, many years ago and even though I liked the scenery and the people, I remember the markets/bazaars being busy and full of people which I don’t really like. Also I did an exchange program in Frankfurt, Germany where I stayed with a Turkish family and it was great! Özlem was the girl who got to go to the UK, and Gül was their other daughter.

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