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JR doctor joins epic Antarctic walk for TV
AN OXFORD doctor has described being part of an epic journey across Antarctica that rectraced the epic footsteps of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton as “mindblowing” .
Dr Alexander Kumar, who works in the Oxford school of anaesthesia at the John Radcliffe Hospital, was the trip doctor on the Shackleton Epic, which authentically recreated the 1916 journey of the Anglo-Irish polar explorer, sailing 800 miles across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia.
The original journey saw drama as the crew’s ship Endurance became stranded in the Antarctic ice.
Shackleton and his fellow explorers travelled the 800 miles in lifeboats, and trekked across a glacier-bound mountain range to get help. Three of the adventurers got trench foot and were unable to make the journey.
But making a documentary for the Discovery Channel, the team didn’t quite face the same life or death experiences and Dr Kumar, 29, enjoyed his journey, arriving back in the UK on Saturday.
He said: “It was mindblowing. Life to me is about combining adventure, science and medicine.
“To me it is incredible to have stood in all those places which are part of polar history, and the journey was like reliving polar history – taking a step back in time.
“We used the same equipment and clothing and this is the closest we could come to the science of the original expedition.
“I was shoved in with the film crew and it was a bit like Big Brother Antarctica.”
A team of British and Australian adventurers recreated the journey, setting off in late December.
As well as using the same equipment, clothing and food they travelled in an exact replica of the original 22ft lifeboat.
They took on a 12-day sea voyage and a three-day trek scaling heights of about 3,000ft.
The journey back to the Falklands following the expedition proved arduous and Dr Kumar was kept busy.
He said: “For the last week or two we had a cabin full of patients and I was checking people’s feet to check that blood was getting to them.
“If it wasn’t it would have been a medical emergency. A hundred years ago they would be doing toe amputations using ether.
“Fortunately, in our case, there were no amputations to be done.
“It was exciting, but testing like an emergency department.”
Dr Kumar, who lives in London, wanted to thank the John Radcliffe Hospital for training him and encouraging him to take on his research opportunities in the polar region.
As well as the reward of crossing the finishing line, he enjoyed the chance to see some impressive wildlife.
He added: “South Georgia was like the Galapagos of Antarctica.
“I was going past elephant seals and penguins as if I was walking through a David Attenborough documentary.”
Dr Kumar is now back in the UK and preparing for exams and research for his PhD.
But it won’t be long before he resumes his travels.
He is bound for South East Asia in April to study tropical medicine.
He will be back to work at the hospital on October 1.
The TV series is scheduled to be screened in the autumn.