Doctor sets out for next epic adventure

The Oxford Times: Dr Alexander Kumar is welcomed by his Siberian Husky Mishi-bear Dr Alexander Kumar is welcomed by his Siberian Husky Mishi-bear

AN OXFORD doctor has returned to Antarctica to recreate the epic journey of a famous explorer.

Dr Alexander Kumar, 29, of the John Radcliffe Hospital, has been selected as the trip doctor for two voyages retracing Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antartic exploits.

Yesterday he left on a two-month journey called the Shackleton Epic, an attempt to become the first to authentically re-enact the explorer’s 800 nautical mile Southern Ocean journey and expedition over the continent’s rugged interior.

Then, in November 2014, he is going on the Imperial TransAntarctic Centenary Expedition in November 2014, following Shackleton’s att-empt to make Antartica’s first land crossing.

He only returned from the continent a month ago after a research project into the effects of cold on the body.

After attending his sister’s wedding he spent Christmas with his family in London.

Dr Kumar said: “When I got back a lot of people asked me if Mishi-bear, my Siberian husky dog, remembers me.

“When I arrived at my front door as soon as I put my hand through the letterbox the dog just went absolutely crazy.

“It was like 10 to 15 minutes of being savaged, but in a friendly way and that was one of my favourite moments back.”

Dr Kumar has plenty of memories to take away from his first trip to Antarctica, where temperatures dropped down below -80C.

There he was employed by the French Polar Institute as the Human Spaceflight Research MD at Concordia, a joint French-Italian inland research station. The trainee anaesthetics and intensive care doctor in the Oxford School of Anaesthesia, was conducting research for the European Space Agency.

During his time there he endured more than three months of complete 24-hour darkness, and one of his highlights was when the sun emerged for the first time.

Dr Kumar added: “It was like being stuck on a submarine for so many months and then being able to stick your head out. “It was difficult, but in terms of the experience there was nothing like it.”

Dr Kumar also enjoyed the coldest and most remote Diamond Jubilee street party and possibly the coldest game of tennis in the world.

He was the only British national among a team of 13 Europeans, living in complete isolation with no means of escape for nine months.

Dr Kumar will be returning to work at the JR in October after completing his PhD researching how the population copes within space-like conditions.

To find out more about his research, visit the Planet Concordia blog on alexanderkumar.com

FAMOUS FOOTSTEPS

IN 1914 an expedition led by veteran explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to become the first to traverse the Antarctic continent.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – known as the Endurance Expedition – aimed to become the first expedition to travel 1,800 miles across the Antarctic continent.

But disaster struck early during the expedition when his ship Endurance became stuck in sea ice and was crushed.

Twenty-eight men were stranded.The team escaped in three lifeboats to Elephant Island and no lives were lost.

Shackleton and five men left Elephant Island in late April 1916 on an 800-mile voyage across the Southern Ocean in the lifeboat James Caird.

They sailed for 17 days, battling the elements in a 22.5 ft wooden boat, eventually landing on the remote island of South Georgia.

Shackleton and two of the crew climbed over the mountains of South Georgia to reach the whaling station at Stromness where they organised the rescue of the remaining crew of the James Caird and all the crew members who had been left stranded on Elephant Island.

Shackleton died of a heart attack in 1922 at the age of 47 and is buried among Norwegian whalers at Grytviken Whaling Cemetery, South Georgia.

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