Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

26. What happens if someone falls through the ice? What happens to trauma patients?


The short answer is that we hope that this does not happen to anyone while in Antarctica.  We take every precaution possible to prevent falling through the ice.  The runway crew are moving the ice runway this weekend since the ice is getting thinner.  It will be moved to the more stable shelf ice further from McMurdo.  All seal holes that are near or on the hiking trails are marked by black flags.  Same thing with ice cracks and crevasses. This is all preventative!!

Similar to falling through the ice in Minnesota, the first thing that needs to happen is to get the person back onto solid ground.  When we walk around the pressure ridges at scott base, we carry a stick that could be used to help pull someone free.  Then we would treat them for hypothermia.  The biggest risk is that the heart will stop if they are too cold.  It would be hard to survive a fall through the ice in the harsh climate of Antarctica.  Especially if traveling alone.

For trauma patients, we have a clinic that allows us to do resuscitation and xrays.  We can splint and stabilize patients.  We then arrange a flight to Christchurch for further care.  We have a system in place for situations involving multiple victims, which we refer to as a “Mass Casualty Incident” or MCI.  We had an MCI drill before I left for home and I plan to post photos of this when I return.  The MCI involves much of the community.  If an MCI call goes out, we move our main medical triage site to the firehouse which has a larger open space.  The volunteer stretcher carriers, medics, recorders and doctors all arrive at the fire house where patients are triaged and managed.  When things calm down, the sickest are moved back to the clinic and then evacuated to Christchurch.

If you have more specific questions about this, let me know!


One response

  1. mom

    How do seals make holes in the ice?
    (I like the snowfall on your blog!)

    December 11, 2010 at 5:59 PM

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