Doctors destined for Australia’s remote Antarctic research stations have been pitted against Tasmania’s rugged wilderness to sharpen their skills in preparation for life on the ice.

Cold nights, isolation and steep cliffs were just a few of the challenges facing four new Antarctic medical practitioners, set to travel to Casey, Mawson, Davis and Macquarie Island stations over summer.

The intensive eight day expedition medicine course was run at the Mount Cameron Field Study Centre in Tasmania’s north-east.

Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) Antarctic Medical Practitioner Dr Clive Strauss said it was just a glimpse into the harsh environment awaiting doctors.

“Our stations are extremely isolated communities. With just a single doctor at each one, it’s absolutely critical they are ready for a wide range of scenarios,” Dr Strauss said.

Participants undertook search and rescue in thick bushland, scaled rocks to reach patients and shivered through the chilly Tasmanian night.

“While Tasmania is a world away from the frozen continent, the landscape is tough and most importantly, cold,” Dr Strauss said.

“The location was especially useful for focussing on practical skills such as rope work and knot tying. It was the perfect classroom.”

The course also provided important components in cold injury management, wound treatment, remote area communication as well as navigation and field skills.

General Manager of Operations and Safety, Charlton Clark, said each station doctor was also supported by the Polar Medicine Unit based in Hobart.

“The Australian Antarctic Division has spent decades developing and refining how we deliver medical care in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,” Mr Clark said.

“We need to ensure our doctors not only have the best medical training but also the best expeditioner training.”

New Antarctic Medical Practitioner, Dr Bosco Li said the week had been a rewarding experience.

“Seeing how a mix of knowledge and skills can be used to progress our understanding of the world around us, whilst creating fun and fond memories along the way could be something quite amazing,” Dr Li said.

Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, wished the new recruits well for their Antarctic posting.

“Antarctica is an unpredictable place and they could have to deal with any range of situations,” Minister Ley said.

“The doctors don’t have hospital teams on hand, they can’t easily transfer patients. They carry an enormous responsibility.”

The Antarctic-bound doctors were joined by other healthcare professionals on the course, which is open to the public and run by the University of Tasmania’s Healthcare in Remote and Extreme Environments Program as partners with the AAD in the Centre for Antarctic, Remote and Maritime Medicine.

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