Thursday, 23 December 2010


75 degrees 6 minutes South, 123 degrees 21 minutes East
Atmospheric pressure 670kPa
Sorry, I tried to post this on the 16th of december, but it
bounced back for some reason. I'm trying again
I pull out my sats probe as soon as I'm out of the plane. Oxygen
saturation of my blood is 85% (At sea level it's about 98%). I climb
a flight of stairs and my sats drop to 80%, with a heart rate of 140.The first day is great, I feel fatigued and short of breath but
excited to be here. I'm met by Ales Rybka, the guy I am taking over
from, a Czech military doctor. He helps me with my bags and takes me
inside the base.
I get a tour, some food, and straight away Ales wants to start
training me on the job I am to take over. I discover why I bumped
someone else off the plane ? Ales is due to leave in three days, and
there really is a lot I need to be trained in before he goes. We get
some good work done that evening.But we run into a hitch, as the next morning I wake up with quite a
bad degree of acute altitude sickness. It's inevitable, everyone gets
a headache and feels dizzy, nauseated soon after they arrive. But I
get a bit of bad luck and suffer it a bit worse. I'm vomiting, and
for 48hours I'm unable to keep down water even. If I get up the room
spins, and there's a strong feeling of pressure in my head.For Sunday I can't do a thing. I'm keeping a close eye on myself.
But my co-ordination is normal, gait, speech, all normal. I'm
communicating normally, so I suppose cognition is normal. OK, so keep
sipping water, keep your head down and wait for it to pass.But This Is Antarctica, right? I was badly delayed getting here and
now Ales will be leaving in two days. I need to learn how do all the
water sampling for the grey water system. It's a recycling system
that keeps our water (therefore energy) needs down through the winter.
It's one of my responsibilities, as it's a system designed by the
European Space Agency as they explore the technologies they will need
on the Mars mission. And Ales, the only guy who knows how to do it is
due to be on a plane in two days now. So on Monday I get on with it
in between bouts of vomiting, and once we are done I head to bed, and
later get up and get back on again. 24hours later and the vomiting
has passed, the nausea settled and the pressure gone.Phew, that was seriously unpleasant.
Everyone here is short of breath when we climb stairs, and has
difficulty sleeping. But I'm well again and it feels great to have an
appetite. Food tastes good again! It's just something we all have to go
through. I'm pleased to find my sats are up to 88% as my
haemoglobin's behaviour is altered by body's changes in response to
the low pressure, but it's a long way off the 97-98% of normal.The base? The base is superb.----------------------------------------------------------------
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