5 years ago colleagues working in Antarctica emailed me for some help with an experiment they were having problems with, and wanted advice on surgical techniques. Although Wilderness Medicine has been a success for isolated human communities, and despite attempted Skype conversations, telemedicine for fish was not a success!
4 years ago I met the same colleagues at a conference where we discussed the issues, and bounced around ideas for a new grant to return to the Antarctic and solve the outstanding problems.
3 years ago, after numerous rounds of emails and documents needing comments and corrections, we submitted an application to the US National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programmes for funding.
2 years ago we had an indication that, based on very positive reviewers comments and the strategic value of the research, that NSF wished to fund the work. However, scientific expeditions to remote areas are both very expensive and logistically difficult to arrange, so a final decision was some way off.
1 year ago we finally got the green light, confirming a later than usual visit for me – I have previously gone during the austral summer (our winter), but strong currents around this part of the Antarctic Peninsula slows freezing of the sea and allows access into the autumn (not so good for those with a weak stomach!).
6 months to go I ordered chemicals and other supplies needed for the experiments to be delivered to the NSF distribution base in California, as there are stringent rules about what can be shipped, how it needs to be packaged, and what route of disposal will be used.
5 month to go I got my extensive medical checks, blood screen and inoculations sorted. In remote areas all participants have to be fit enough to help each other in emergencies, and are potential blood donors so a clean bill of health is essential.
4 months to go and time to improve fitness levels, so alternate between gym and pool on work days, as I need to recover some muscle bulk lost after shoulder surgery.
3 months to go I boxed up the equipment I will be using and sent that off, hopefully to be reunited on the ship at our port of departure in Chile.
1 month to go I received notice that my flights had finally been booked, so it looks like we’re ready to roll. Just a small matter of clearing the decks here of a growing pile of urgent tasks needing to be done before departure, while coping with moving office and lab into new premises – great timing!