Injuries, ailments, treatments

Linsdau battled various injuries and ailments during the expedition across Antarctica.  He was able to deal Bandageswith them with help from ALE’s doctors. Only having a light formal medical training through NOLS, Linsdau was prepared for the basic problems he ran into, like frostnip and repetitive motion injuries. For other issues like chilblains, there is no remedy available other than getting out of the cold and letting the skin damage heal.  This was not possible all during the expedition, so he just had to brave the pain and irritation.  As this was his first major polar expedition, he learned a great deal.

Linsdau received emails noting problems from other expedition failures and their reasons:

Either individual team members have dropped out or whole teams have failed due to a number of injuries. (As a soloist you can’t afford for anyone on the team to get injured)! Ray Jardine made a very good point. What has become called ‘Polar thigh’ is a nasty debilitating injury that effects quite a number of polar skiers to some degree, it starts as chilblains on the thighs.

Between 2004 and 2010, 116 skiers completed ‘all-the-way’ ski expeditions to the South Pole and 25 people failed to complete their journey, a failure rate of nearly 22%.

Expedition stopping injuries have included:

         Strained Achilles tendons; solution is appropriate physical training program over several months pre-expedition and good fitting boots,

         A torn calf muscle – repeat of an old injury,

         A cut hand – sliced hand instead of cheese with a Leatherman; solution slice and cube cheese and dried meat products in Punta Arenas before the expedition,

         Frostbite to fingers; solution: prior experience in extreme to cold, caution when using inner or liner gloves to do outside tasks, use of ski pole pogies to protect the hands,

         ‘Polar thigh’; a headwind and skiing motion may compress trousers over the front of the thigh reducing the level of insulation to a level that allows chilblains to develop. With continued exposure they ulcerate and get infected. Solution good clothing and equipment advice pre-expedition and careful clothing selection. Loose fitting layers with windproof trousers or salopettes on top.

         Altitude sickness on Last Degree expeditions; solution is a gradual and progressive timetable of minimal activity after being dropped off, then a half day with a maximum of four hours skiing, then increasing when and only when all the team are AMS symptom free using the Lake Louise scale.

Non injury causes of giving up

         Testing of novel equipment that doesn’t work: various forms of human-powered bicycle, a one-person sled based caravan,

         Lack of prior appreciation of the challenge led to demoralization and a desire to give up

         Too old, unable to sustain the daily physical effort

         Too disorganized: it requires self-discipline to get every morning at a fixed time and to ski south all day and to do this week after week as efficiently as possible. If you sleep in and get up when you feel like it you will waste too much time and run out of time, you must be organized, have a routine and the discipline to stick to it.

         Insufficient prior experience meant a lack of understanding of the challenge which lead to loss of morale, fear and desire to give up

         Poor advice from ‘experts’ who were not experts in Antarctic polar expeditions lead to several expeditions arriving poorly equipped and not understanding the practicalities of polar travel.