Local MP visits EML/ ATD HQ

The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP for West Dorset came to visit the Across the Divide headquarters and below is a copy of his impression written up for the Western Gazette.

Oliver Letwin 

I have seen the future – right here in West Dorset; and it is with us now.

If you want to see it too, you have to make a pilgrimage to Thorncombe (which happens to be the village in which I live)..

You have to go up the main street and turn off it down a tiny lane.  There you will find a barn.

Some time back, this barn was rather the worse for wear – and had clearly ceased to have the original agricultural purpose for which it had been constructed.

Today, it is as smart a building as any in West Dorset, or anywhere else in the country, for that matter.  Its stone positively glistens. It has splendidly restored beams, a magnificent set of skylights which are appropriately invisible from outside, cunningly inserted places for birds and owls to eat and roost, and wonderfully polished restored wooden fittings.

But it is not just a West Dorset stone barn brought back to life. It is also packed with  high-tech, eco-conscious design features. It has absolutely the latest air heat recovery system, a solar water heating system, and fixed line broadband as well as – for safety’s sake – a line-of-sight wireless broadband system,

Enter the barn, and you find yourself in a brilliantly equipped and ultra-modern office, with ranks of calmly efficient young people working on the latest computers and surrounded by remarkable works of modern art, chic glass and metal tables, and all the other apparatus of the fanciest and grandest of London city firms.

The only thing that differs from a London city office is that this barn, instead of being cramped into some tiny keyhole-space amidst the grime and noise of city life, is surrounded by some of the loveliest of West Dorset’s hills and by the charm of Thorncombe’s little streets.

The business that is going on in this remarkable environment is, in itself, remarkable.  Known as “Across the Divide”, it is an organisation devoted to arranging outdoor activities across the world for charities, voluntary bodies and corporations that are raising money for charities.  From all over the country, experienced travellers and skillful medics are brought together to lead expeditions that venture not only along the heritage coastline of Britain but also to the North Pole and the Amazon .

The range is vast: an expedition to refurbish a decaying school in South Africa; a tour of a great city by night; the ascent of some dangerous peak; wherever, whatever and whenever – and all quietly and efficiently arranged from this barn in Thorncombe.

Ten years ago, it would have been quite another matter.  Twenty years ago, it would have been quite impossible.  But today, with broadband communications (mercifully available in Thorncombe, unlike some other parts of West  Dorset), it can all be done exactly as efficiently as in a big city office, and with a vastly higher quality of life for those involved.

Those who say that rural areas are inevitably  going to be left behind in the fast-moving global economy should pay a visit, and repent !

Polar Medicine’s Charity Partners | SAFER

Each of our training courses has a specific charity partner and in the case of our Polar Medicine trainiing course which is held in northern Norway its partner is located at the end of the world in the southern polar region and our money supports the work of Dr Peter Cary and his SubAntarctic Foundation for Ecosystems Research (SAFER).

SubAntarctic Foundation for Ecosystems Research

SAFER

Recently Expedition Medicine in partnership with Across the Divide Expeditions sponsored the design, printing and shipping of new SAFER T-shirts for enabling better branding of the foundation, a greater sense of identity amongst its field staff and as a fund-raising tool by their sale.

Peter was pretty pleased when they arrived by this really made us giggle;

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Media Crew Expedition Medical Support

Media Medical Logistical Support

At Expedition and Wilderness Medicine we are aware that many TV projects are getting more adventurous and travelling to more remote environments. In these circumstances it is vitally important to have a qualified doctor or medical professional on site should the unexpected happen. Many locations do not have first world medical facilities and an Expedition Medicine medic equipped with the latest mobile medical kit and satellite communication can provide the peace of mind to allow you to focus on the production of your project. 

We can provide full medical cover for production teams and celebrities on your television or photographic project worldwide. We have an impressive portfolio of experienced medical professionals on our books, many of whom have media experience both on and off camera. Using Expedition and Wilderness Medicine to provide your medical cover resolves some of the most important logistical and safety considerations of foreign travel in remote environments.   Through our ties with Across the Divide Expeditions we are also able to assist in the provision of outdoor specialists and logistical support in the worlds most remote locations.

We also provide other expedition equipment, preparation and back up services such as:

  • Expedition Leader
  • Casualty Evacuation Plan 
  • Risk Assessment 
  • Pre-expedition medical advice for all crew 
  • Satellite phone 
  • Radios 
  • Medical Kit including fluids and drugs 
  • Gamov Bag 
  • 24-hour phone medical cover
A selection of our customers          

Ginger Productions

Ginger Productions

BBC Natural History Unit (NHU)

BBC Natural History Unit (NHU)

ITV 2

ITV 2

Pirelli Calender

Pirelli Calender

Price list

Item Investment
Fully qualified and experienced medic £350/day including pre-expedition meetings and travel days
Expedition Leader £350/day including pre-expedition meetings and travel days
Wilderness Medical Kit £350/week including fluids and drugs (only to be supplied with an EML doctor)
Risk Assessment £300/day for all travel, in-country research and report write up time
Pre-expedition medical advice for all crew £300/day
Satellite phone £100/week + £1/minute talk time
Casualty Evacuation Plan £300/day for all travel, in-country research and report write up time
Radios £40/week/radio (includes mains and in car chargers)
Gamov Bag £100/week
24 hour medical help line £300/week

Please be aware that this structure can be adapted to suit the needs of your project since no two expeditions or remote locations are alike. We work with you to define your needs and recruit the appropriate medical professional. 

‘I’d just like to say thank you for all your help – I’ve had lots of applicants through Expedition Medicine from all over the world, so that’s been really great. For your information, as of late Wednesday afternoon we have found our medic, so I no longer require our ad to be ‘out there’ so to speak!’ … ‘We would definitely consider using Expedition Medicine in the future, if a suitable role comes up’. C.M | ASSISTANT PRODUCER | BBC NATURAL HISTORY UNIT 

Satellite driven ‘reach-back’ facility

Expedition Medicine are in the position to offer a satellite driven ‘reach-back’ facility to UK based doctors. We are able to provide medical advice to clients in the field on all medical issues from primary care, tropical diseases and through to emergency medical conditions. 

We can act as your specialist medical back up; supporting and empowering you to effectively deliver medical services in remote or hostile environments. 

Access to this facility is just a phone call or satellite communication away.
We can provide 

• The capability to communicate via BGAN or Irridium satellite communications directly with the UK accessing real-time advice on dealing with the most demanding medical situations
• We can provide the equiptment and the expertise for you to feel confident and comfortable in any hostile or remote location. 

High lift jack demonstration - Namib Desert

High lift jack demonstration - Namib Desert

More Information

For specific information about your media project or expedition please ring Piers Carter, Expedition Projects Director on 07801 104604 or email Piers, our media manager here.

All of Expedition Medicine’s doctors carry medical indemnity underwritten by UK based companies.  Part of the conditions of contract with Expedition Medicine specifies that in the event of a medical negligence claim, all parties agree to disputes being settled under British Law, in British Courts.

Expedition and WIlderness Medicine

Desert Medicine Course – Damaraland, Namibia, August 2008

Namibia was the location for Expedition Medicine’s first Desert Medicine Course 

The dramatic landscapes of Namibia
The dramatic landscapes of Namibia

2009 dates for Desert Medicine Course; 19th – 25th of April.

Author: Dr Claire Roche

A country famous for its Skeleton coast, an eerie graveyard of numerous shipwrecks which have fallen victim to its rough waters, home to towering sand dunes and of course Africa’s “big five”. Tucked away in South West Africa, Namibia is a country of mystery with a unique landscape and proved to be one of the worlds’ best possible locations in which to learn expedition medicine, desert style.

After undertaking a four day 4×4 self drive safari prior to the course I soon became aware that a lack of understanding of such terrain could have deadly consequences. Described by explorers as “hell on earth” and described in the bible as “the dust of death”, the desert environment can kill in a matter of hours.

A destination popular with European holiday makers and best enjoyed by taking self drive safaris, Namibia’s International airport is a hub of car hire companies. Tourists are pouring onto Namibia’s roads with no journey preparation or experience in handling 4×4 vehicles on off road terrain. This was demonstrated when I crossed paths with a group of four female German exchange students who ventured out to the popular beauty spot of Sossulvei dunes and petrified forest. They had hired the most economical car which was completely unsuitable to gravel roads (which make up the majority of Namibian roads outside of the major cities) and a momentary lapse of concentration resulted in the car sliding out of control, ending up on its’ roof in a field bordering the road. Fortunately no passenger was injured and help passed within the hour but this daily occurrence on Namibian roads has claimed the lives of many tourists and locals. We exchanged stories at a desert lodge as only the previous day I too managed to end up stranded after our 4×4 became lodged in sand whilst visiting the same area. Our only saving grace was that this occurred in a popular area where passers-by stopped to help within half an hour, however if this was to have happened two days previously whilst we had been traversing similar terrain in a desolate area of the skeleton coast I dread to think of the possible implications, especially as the day was drawing in and we had not seen another car in several hours.

Namibia is home to multiple tales of travellers making the mistake of leaving their vehicle to find help and falling victim to temperatures of 50 degrees and limited water availability. Prior to starting the course my experiences made me desperate to feel self sufficient in this unforgiving environment should I ever have the misfortune to be stranded.

Male Namib Rock Agama, Damaraland - Namibia

Male Namib Rock Agama, Damaraland - Namibia

Base camp for the course was a 5 hour drive from the capital city of Windhoek to the Brandberg Range, in a region named Damaraland in the north west of Namibia. The first thing I noted was that the term “desert” was an umbrella term for multiple types of terrain. Besides the obvious rolling sand dunes, deserts can be dry, barren and rocky areas or vast, open, dusty plains extending for miles. In this location there was no readily available running water, electricity or mobile phone signal. Just 20 single man tents surrounded by a jaw dropping backdrop of the surrounding desert. From my previous Expedition Medicine experience of Polar and Jungle courses, once again, they had excelled themselves in choice of location for their course. As the sun went down and poured its’ pink heart into the desert floor we sat around natures’ television, warmed our feet and listened to what was planned for the first desert medicine course over the coming week.

We were led by our fantastic guides: Volker, Faan and Korbus, on our first of many desert treks. A ten hour “stroll” in 45 degrees of heat, across plains and gorges. We learnt how to navigate our way using GPS (global positioning system), maps and compasses but the first skill we had to obtain was that of finding water in this apparently bone dry environment. We headed for gorges and began to learn the art of animal tracking. The desert is a maze of animal tracks, the most intriguing to me was that of the desert elephant. An animal that required 12l+ of water per day so if you could find the animals the chances were you could find the water. We were taught water purification techniques and fire lighting. I noticed how morale was boosted in camp when fire was lit as it became dark and the temperature began to drop and also how important fire was to cooking, signalling and keeping warm. The only downside was the unwelcome visitors it attracted such as scorpions, insects and hyenas. The nights spent away from base camp with no tent to protect us I became quite aware that the desert was buzzing with life. As the lights went out the odd call of the barking gecko and the laugh of the hyenas made me feel most vulnerable and somewhat uneasy.

Our first day brought heat related illness to reality as several of the group complained of nausea and headache. Yet to be fully acclimatised, the harsh environment was already having an effect. One member needing to be cooled in the field after developing lightheadedness and tachycardia we were given first-hand experience of minor heat related illness and learnt in the form of lectures about more severe heat related illness. Interestingly we found that measuring temperature is of insignificant value when comparing to the signs and symptoms and is often inaccurate.

Over the week we learned more and more about the flora and fauna of the area and how to treat snake, spider and scorpion bites. To enforce what we learnt we were introduced to a snake handler who brought a variety of snakes and scorpions for us to see and to help demonstrate envenomation. Most snake bites are dry bites and the waiting for symptoms to develop can be distressing. We undertook a practical where venom was taken from a puff adder and added to 5mls of freshly venesected blood. After 20 minutes of being left to stand the blood had still failed to coagulate demonstrating the effects of envenomation.

In desert regions the most common mode of transport is by vehicle and after my experiences prior to the course I had lost all confidence in handling a 4×4 over rough terrain and vowed never to do so again! But the desert medicine course gave me the opportunity to practice extraction of a 4×4 lodged in dense sand or mud using multiple handy tips from our amazing guides who when in their company I felt so safe. We were taught the use of the car if stranded – water in the radiator for drinking, sparks from the battery to generate fire, mirrors for signalling to aircraft and shade from the burning sun. What we learnt was enforced by tales of those who had left their car and fallen to dehydration, heat stroke or the sampling of flora which proved to be toxic.

On our final day all we had been taught was put into practice in a scenario situation.

Divided into groups of ten whilst trekking we came across a familiar patient lying in the scrub having been bitten by a snake. I must say it is a credit to the expedition medicine team of instructors as both groups located their patient, washed the wound, applied a compression bandage and splint, improvised a stretcher, transported the patient 2kms to an arranged rendezvous using GPS and radios, erected shelter and made a small fire in under 20 minutes. The final day was made extra special when we successfully tracked a herd of desert elephant to a water source. To see these amazing majestic animals who had hidden themselves so well all week except for their tracks was in a word, awesome. This was an experience that no game safari could have given me especially when we were “false charged” in an effort to protect their calves. This was the point at which it was time to go back to civilisation, go back to our electricity, showers, iPods and double beds with some profound memories.

Desert Elephant near Brandberg Mountain, Namibia

Desert Elephant near Brandberg Mountain, Namibia

Expedition medicine courses join my two loves of travel and medicine. They do not just teach everyday medics medicine relevant to an environment but also how to survive and care for others in these environments. With this knowledge travel to previously hostile, remote destinations becomes safe, possible and enjoyable. There is a great world of travel opportunity and as Winston Churchill aptly said a century to the year ago ” for the formation of opinion, for the stirring and enlivenment of thought and for the discernment of colour and proportion, the gifts of travel, especially travel on foot, are priceless”.

Dr Claire Roche | Junior Registrar in Emergency Medicine | Gold Coast Hospital

The next Expedition medicine course will be in Diving and Marine Medicine, Oman, United Arab Emirates, October 2008.

The next Desert Medicine Course is scheduled for the 19th – 25th of April 2009.  Please register your interest with Expedition and Wilderness Medical Training at  admin@expeditionmedicine.co.uk

Worldwide Wilderness Medicine medical training CME accredited training courses.

Challenge for the medics – new adventure race in Andalucia

Our friends at Adventure-racing.org have just returned back from Spain from the recce of their new Spanish ultra race. A 250km race over 5 days in the stunning Andalucia region. A beautiful mountain trail running through villages, taking in a wide range of landscapes including the white peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

The race takes place on the 13th-17th July 2009.