James Doube — Antarctic Medal recipient 2012

Macquarie Island life

Video transcript

Dr James Doube

It’s a pretty amazing place to live. It’s, both from a community sense, you're with a group of really interesting people who've genuinely done a wide variety of things before and come down here, not because it’s just another job but because they're wanting that greater experience or that interaction with the environment. It’s almost like living in some sort of nature documentary. There are so many animals packed in such a small space. Most of the animals that we think about living in the Antarctic don’t actually want to have their babies on the ice so many of the seals, the albatrosses and many species of penguin that may feed further south want to lay their eggs on the last bit of sort of normal green-covered dirt rather than ice and that’s what Macquarie Island represents.

[end transcript]

Rescue team preparing landing spot on the ice for the helicopter
MV Akademik Shokalskiy rescue. FTO Marty Benavente, WCO Doug Thost and Dr James Doube preparing a landing spot and assisting tourists to the Aurora Australis. (Photo: Jessica Fitzpatrick)

Dr James Doube is an Antarctic Medical Practitioner who commenced his service with the Australian Antarctic Division as a rural and remote medicine registrar and completed his Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine with advanced skills in General Practice Surgery whilst providing outstanding service to Australia’s Antarctic Program.

He is characterised as a multi-skilled expeditioner with experience and skill in pre-hospital medicine, having qualified as an intensive care paramedic prior to undertaking medical training. His background and enthusiasm have embraced all aspects of ship and station life from medical facility management to biology and science, communications, media, search and rescue and field logistics support, including resupply activities. He has contributed individually and as a team member to the fabric and the team efforts of each voyage and expedition in which he has been involved, contributing substantially to ensuring their success.

Dr Doube has been described as “an inspiration to other doctors in practicing remote medicine” and, during his time with the Australian Antarctic Division, has demonstrated his outstanding qualities in the practice and theory of polar medicine through his willingness, enthusiasm and his versatility across the disciplines of procedural generalist medicine, expedition medicine and public health and occupational medicine supported by his highly regarded field, biology, veterinary and boating skills. This exceptional combination of abilities and skills has contributed to and enabled the success of the various expeditions and programs.

Dr Doube has made a multi skilled contribution to successive Macquarie Island expeditions, and while this alone is an expectation normally held of expeditioners, the degree to which Dr Doube has contributed goes far beyond the norm and is considered exceptional. Specifically he has undertaken the additional roles of Field Training Officer, leading the Search and Rescue Teams and held a key role in small boat operations which requires enhanced ability given the Macquarie Island environment. He has participated in seal and shark biology research in which his qualifications in biology proved particularly valuable and has also had experience as a licensed operator of loaders, skidders, cranes and a telescopic low loader.

Dr Doube has made a significant contribution to the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program (MIPEP). This contribution has been acknowledged as outstanding by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. The input by Dr Doube was far in excess of what would have been expected of the Medical Officer on a Macquarie Island expedition team. Dr Doube has had a significant role in the success of the program from the outset specifically with:

  • strategy and planning of the MIPEP from undertaking on his own initiative a census of rabbit populations using night vision glasses therefore quantifying the problem which was far greater than previously thought
  • input to operational strategy and management of the station given the unprecedented mix of personnel and higher wintering numbers to be involved in the MIPEP
  • planning for the wellbeing of isolated and remote field operatives specifically for the capacity for emergency response to accidents in the challenging Macquarie Island environment

Dr Doube displayed exceptional service in volunteering for “back to back” wintering service during 2010 and 2011. It is rare for service to be for such an extended time let alone for exceptional service to be sustained at a superior level across so many aspects of an annual program. The demands of these two years were well above the normal pressures on an Antarctic Medical Practitioner, with additional monitoring of worker health and ecosystem health due to the nature of the compounds used in the eradication program.