Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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Special Report: Drama On the Aurora - Berkely and Ozgold Near Death, But Recovering

Hi everyone. Gordon here.

I know Berkley normally writes to you all regularly but he can’t right now because he is in bed recovering from a frightful and frightening incident. OzGold is also in bed and the two are really quite abashed at what happened and very apologetic.

Late in the morning I noticed that Berkley and OzGold had left the cabin and wandered off somewhere exploring as they do quite often. They don’t normally spend very long away and they usually come back in time for lunch. However they didn’t and I went to lunch a little earlier than usual in case they came directly there. No sign at all and I was getting a bit concerned. So after a quick lunch I went for a walk around the ship and asked people I bumped into if they’d seen my two little pals. No was the reply, but one said he thought he’d seen a couple of small figures down near the laboratories. So I went and had a closer look in that area. I was walking along a small corridor when I noted the catches on one of the special specimen freezers were unlatched. That’s funny, I said to myself, the crew are normally good at checking these things. I was about to put the latches on when I thought I may as well check the blood serum samples we had in the freezer. And just as well I did, because I found Berkley and OzGold in there!! They had been looking at some sample bottles and had fallen in and were very very cold indeed - ice was forming all over them. I yelled out to them but they were both unconscious and couldn’t hear me. This freezer operates at minus 80 degrees Celsius and I was afraid they’d both died in the conditions. I quickly grabbed them out of there and rushed them into one of the labs and sent out an urgent call for the doctor and grabbed another one of the expeditioners to come and give us a hand.

Just before the doctor came I had wrapped Berkley and OzGold in blankets and started running hot water into a small bath. The doctor arrived and sprang instantly into action.

Dr Kim made an instant diagnosis that we had two very severe cases of hypothermia, particularly when I explained what I thought had happened to them. The outward signs were heavy encrustations of ice all over the pair of them, skin surface almost frozen, eyes glazed, couldn’t feel a pulse but that might have been because of the ice around them. Tried to take a temperature on their ears but couldn’t get a proper reading, couldn’t get a heartbeat either, because their clothes were frozen and stuck to their bodies. They looked so small and pitiful and still and white.

We quickly ran the bath with hot water to around 20 degrees Celsius and popped the two of them in it. Dr Kim and her helper Dan bathed them with the water to try and remove the ice and loosen up their frozen clothing and start to warm up their poor little bodies. They’d even stopped shivering which was a bad sign. The water got cold so quickly we had to keep topping it up to maintain some warmth. We had no means of telling how long they had been in those ultra cold conditions and just how much tissue may have been frozen and what their core temperature may have been. It must have been a reasonable time for the ice to have formed on and around their bodies - poor things. Thank the lord that they hadn’t also been out in the wind because the wind chill would have made things much much worse.

Once we had removed a lot of the ice which had formed on them, Dr Kim managed to start to get some readings from her instruments; she found their pulses - very thready and their core temperatures were down to around 26 Celsius (normally about 38). Putting them into such warm water to try and restore their temperatures was risky because the shock can stop their hearts, but we figured they were pretty tough and kept gong with the water bath to try and bring their temperatures up. Dr Kim managed to fit resuscitators to them to give them oxygen to help the flow of blood back to their extremities - this is important to avoid tissue death and possible amputations. Dr Kim monitored their temperatures by ear probes until she could get better readings using a rectal thermometer.

Because of the possibility of severe dehydration Dr Kim also put them onto IV drips as quickly as she could find veins in their little arms. We also warmed the IV solution to provide additional help to restoring warmth to their extremities. In the meantime Dan kept going with the water treatment and also talking to them. Gradually we began to see some eye movement and groans of anguish and pain as circulation gradually came back into their bodies. So it was a case of continuing to monitor all the vital signs and stabilise them.

As soon as things were relatively calm and we knew we had saved them, we wrapped them up in blankets and with drips, oxygen and monitors still in we took them up to the hospital where Dr Kim kept a close eye on them, checking on core and surface temperatures, heart rate, skin, monitoring blood chemistry and their extremities. After some time they stabilised and started to tell us about what they had been doing and this was also a help in assessing their mental state.

Later in the afternoon Dr Kim said that they were both fine and she could take them off the drips and monitoring. There appeared to be no lasting damage and their extremities seemed to have escaped frostbite in its various forms. After giving them a stern talking to I was allowed to bring them back to my cabin where I could keep a close eye on them. So they are here, wrapped up in some cosy blankets, drinking hot sweet tea and looking very ashamed at what they’d done and the trouble and worry they had caused.

We are all so relieved they have made it and they look so cute all rugged up, it is hard to continue to be cross at them.

So thank you Dr Kim and Dan for some quick action to save our little friends. I took some pictures of the incident and will send them along later. In the meantime I have to fill in lots and lots of forms to report on what happened. See how much trouble you’ve caused, little guys. No more wandering off without telling me where you’re going.

It was all very frightening at the time and we are glad it had a good outcome. It also tells us something about the risks in this type of environment, but also the training we provide people and the equipment we make available to assist in dealing with all kinds of emergencies.

Hopefully Berkley will be able to write again tomorrow. I notice that he and OzGold are cuddled up together and sound asleep. Bless their little hearts.

God bless you all.




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