Antarctic Medical Practitioner/Emergency Response Team/Hydroponics Team/Station Seamstress/Coffee and Froth Maker Supremo/Coffee Machine Minder/Drambuie Connoisseur/Cherry Ripe Slice Maker (additional qualifiers added by the editor)
Over the year I have had the pleasure of interviewing many of our summer and winter expeditioners. It has been fascinating to learn so many new and interesting things about the people you thought you knew so well. Who would have known that Timo is preparing for intergalactic war or that Mel has a morbid fear of rats? It is a bit of a shame that some of the more interesting replies were censored by the editorial staff! All good things must come to an end, so they say, and I have come to the end of our little group, the Davis 65th ANARE.
The station has made it quite clear that I should be subject to the same scrutiny as everyone else and answer my own questions. So here it is, the final instalment of Doc’s Dozen 2012!
Jan, is this your first trip to Antarctica and what attracted you here?
I visited the Antarctic Peninsula on a mega jolly medical conference in 2006 where I met up again with Dr Des Lugg. He had interviewed me previously for this position and encouraged me to think about re-applying. After that meeting I began brushing up on my surgical and emergency medicine skills and, lo and behold, here I am. I have been drawn to the continent from the moment I heard my husband’s stories of adventure from his expeditioner days.
What is it like being a doctor here?
Being the doctor is very different to normal medical practice. If I am very busy doing actual medical work then something is very wrong on station. Most of my time is spent maintaining the medical facility which is the equivalent of a small country hospital. I now have to do all the things that I would normally write a request slip for, such as x-rays and blood tests plus I get to be the dentist as well.
Every month I do a health check on the expeditioners and also analyse our drinking water and effluent plus conduct medical research for the Polar Medicine Unit.
If not a doctor, what job would you do?
I would like to be an international travel writer, but without all that tedious airport business or long haul flights.
Best gig as a doctor?
Flying around East Timor last year in a Blackhawk helicopter checking out the district hospitals with some US Navy doctors. (…and they’re paying me for this as well? SWEET!)
What has been your best experience in Antarctica Jan?
Flying deep field over the Princes Charles Mountains in the very early morning light, then circling around between the 10,000ft peaks to land on a blue ice glacier. I felt like a giant bird flying into an ancient ice kingdom that belonged in Lord of the Rings.
What do you love about Antarctica?
I wanted to come here to live and breathe Antarctica in a way that is only possible if you stay for an extended period of time. I love the challenge of living in a place that by all rights should be uninhabitable. The great beauty here goes without saying, but it is also a place of solitude and a rare opportunity to reflect and evaluate your life.
Who inspires you Jan?
The human race. You should never underestimate a person’s capacity for change.
What have you learnt living here at Davis?
I have learnt an enormous amount about male behaviour. I thought I knew a fair bit about it already but what an eye-opener! That constant testosterone driven jostling and wrestling that is entirely focused towards being the strongest, biggest and the best. They just can’t help themselves! Kinship is tested, blood is drawn, and all of this purely to attract and claim the female of the species. Yes, you can learn a lot watching elephant seals. The boys on station are absolute gentlemen of course.
If you were granted one wish, what would it be?
An end to human suffering in all its forms.
So Jan, if you where a car, what would you be?
I think I am very much like my own car, a 1999 green Toyota Camry sedan. It is a bit ‘last century’, not a very fashionable colour and has a few dints and scrapes on the duco.
Having said that, it is in good nick for its age (it has been well cared for), it is family orientated and very reliable. However, under the bonnet is a surprising V6 engine with plenty of guts and power to get you out of trouble when you need it.
Of course what I would LIKE to be is a classic British Racing Green MG MGB with flashy chrome wire wheels!
If you could be anyone else, who would it be?
Being myself is just fine. I have a very fortunate life, but I would really like to be a musically talented, all singing, all dancing version of me.
What is in store for you when you return home Jan?
An endless embrace from my husband and children plus playing spoons and cups of Lady Grey tea in bed.