Expedition and Wilderness Medicine is chosen to provide backstop support for Pen Hadows latest expedition to the pole

The Catlin Arctic Survey

The Catlin Arctic Survey

Pen Hadows latest expedition supported by HRH Prince of Wales is to be supported by the medical resources of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine.

 

The Catlin Arctic Survey Expedition is an international collaboration between polar explorers and some of the world’s foremost scientific bodies. It seeks to resolve one of the most important environmental questions of our time:

How long will the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover remain a permanent feature of our planet?

The team will be travelling on foot, hauling sledges from 80°N 140°W, across 1200-km of disintegrating and shifting sea ice, for around 100 days, in temperatures from 0ºC down to -50°C.

Essential data:

Despite the technological advances of the 20th century, we still only have estimates of the thickness of the sea ice cover on the Arctic Ocean. Travelling across the sea ice, the Catlin Arctic Survey team will take precise measurements of its thickness and density. This will enable the programme’s Science Partners to determine, with a greater degree of accuracy, how long the ice cap will remain. Currently, its predicted meltdown date is anywhere between four and a hundred years from now.

Global significance:

The melting of the sea ice will accelerate climate change, sea level rise and habitat loss on a global scale. Its loss is also a powerful indicator of the effects of human activity on our planet’s natural systems and processes. The Survey’s scientific findings will be taken to the national negotiating teams working to replace the Kyoto Protocol agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Pioneering technology:

The Catlin Arctic Survey has developed and tested a portable, ice-penetrating radar. This will take continuous and detailed measurements of both the snow and ice layers along the 1200 km route.

Ground-breaking satellite communications equipment, developed specifically for this project, will allow the survey team to transmit their unfolding story directly from the ice to a global audience.

 

Mike Grocott Expedition and Wilderness Medicine lecturer speaks to the BBC about the Caudwell Extreme Everest Expedition

Everest trip helps critically ill

Copyright  Michelle Roberts
BBC News health reporter

Dr Grocott
Dr Grocott and the Caudwell team plan another trek in 2009

The lessons learned by medics from a trip to Everest could help the treatment of critically ill patients.

The team that braved the Himalayan summit to study the body’s responses to extreme adversity has recorded the lowest ever human blood oxygen level.

The results could see treatment plans for some patients with similarly low blood oxygen levels re-evaluated.

The “Caudwell Xtreme Everest” work has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The blood readings established what has long been suspected – that high-altitude climbers have incredibly low levels of oxygen in their blood, which at sea-level would only be seen in patients close to death.

The figures they have got are quite incredible. They are phenomenally low oxygen levels
Anaesthetist Dr Andy Tomlinson

The average arterial oxygen level was 3.28 kilopascals or kPa – the lowest was 2.55 kPa.

The normal value in humans is 12-14 kPa and patients with a level below 8 kPa are considered critically ill.

Expedition leader Dr Mike Grocott said: “We rarely see below 6 kPa in our patients.

“Yet our readings were well below this and we were walking and talking and functioning normally.

“This gives us some perspective about what levels of oxygen deprivation people can tolerate.”

He said some critically ill patients may have adapted to the low oxygen levels and may not need the aggressive interventions, such as ventilation, that are currently given to get blood oxygen levels closer to normal ranges.

“All these interventions carry a risk of harm and you have to weigh up the benefits versus potential damage to organs like the lungs.

“Maybe we could be less aggressive in treating some of these patients.”

He said other intensive care researchers were planning to investigate it.

Tolerance limits

Acting as guinea pigs themselves, the London team of medics – five anaesthetists, two GPs and a vascular surgeon – took the first readings of human blood oxygen 8,400m above sea level.

The team climbed with oxygen tanks, then removed their masks 20 minutes prior to testing to give time for their lungs to get used to the low-oxygen atmosphere and to avoid any skewing of the readings.

The team were unable to make the measurement on the summit of Everest as conditions were too severe, with temperatures at -25C and winds above 20 knots.

Having descended a short distance from the summit, the doctors removed their gloves, unzipped their down suits and drew blood from the femoral artery in the groin.

The samples were then carried by Sherpas back down the mountain and analysed within two hours at a science lab set up at the team’s camp at 6,400m.

Based on calculations of the expected level of oxygen in the blood, the Caudwell Xtreme team speculate that accumulation of fluid in the lungs as a result of the high altitude might have contributed to the low oxygen levels.

They hope ongoing research will eventually lead to better treatments for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, septic shock, “blue baby” syndrome and other critical illnesses.

Dr Andy Tomlinson, an anaesthetist at the City General Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent and a keen climber, said: “The figures they have got are quite incredible. They are phenomenally low oxygen levels.

“There is obviously a difference between critically ill patients and fit and healthy climbers.

“Never the less, there are lessons to be learned for critical care.”

Dr Peter Nightingale of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said: “This may well make doctors re-evaluate their current provision of oxygen and the researchers may well be right that patients can run on lower oxygen levels.

“But we do not know and we need more research.”

Mike Grocott is a Expedition and Wilderness Medicine lecturer and presents on our UK training course – Expedition and Wilderness Medicine UK

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Staff Bio: Dr Denny Levett

Denny Levett
Denny Levett is a Specialist Registrar in Critical Care and Anaesthesia at UCL. She is the deputy director of the Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at UCL and has extensive experience in expedition medicine.

Denny has research interests in altitude medicine and diving and hyperbaric medicine and is a keen climber and diver.

She was the Expedition medical officer for the Caudwell Xtreme Everest research expedition in 2007 (www.xtreme-everest.co.uk) responsible for more than 250 climbers, investigators and volunteers in the field. She was also the expedition Deputy Research leader and is currently completing a phd in altitude physiology.

In 2005, Denny worked as a diving and hyperbaric medicine fellow at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia treating divers with decompression sickness. She has spent nine months working as the expedition medical officer on three marine biology diving expeditions in Africa, Fiji and Oman.

Denny has also worked as a Medical Officer for ‘Across the Divide Expeditions’ since 1999. She has accompanied groups on hiking, white water rafting and mountain biking expeditions in remote locations including Guatemala, Nepal, Patagonia, Lapland and Peru.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine’s Medical Facualty.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Staff Bio: Ceri Williams

Ceri Rhys Williams

Ceri’s passions are people and their behaviours. He believes that concentration on great behaviours is the way for all individuals and teams to reach their true potential.

Ceri has spent the past 20 years working as a sports and adventure coach, operating on rivers and in mountain ranges throughout the world. Part of this time was spent serving in the Armed Forces.

Ceri actually spent 22 years in the Royal Marine Commandos specialising in Physical and Adventurous Training. Alongside his service as a soldier he became a British Canoe Union (BCU) Level 5 Coach, earned the Mountain Leader Training Board (MLTB) Mountain Instructor Award (MIA), The Winter Mountain Leader Award (ML Winter). Throughout his commando service he spent numerous winters in northern Norway which played to his strengths. Here in the Arctic he gained considerable travel and survival experience. During his time with the Royal Marines, Ceri also played representative rugby and squash and was a member of the Great Britain Dragon Boating Team, paddling in two World Championships.

Ceri works now as a professional outdoor coach, a personal and team performance coach and an expedition leader. Together with his outdoor qualifications he is a certified practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming and is a master practitioner in Hypnotherapy and never ceases to be exited by the power of language in all forms of coaching.

Since leaving the Royal Marines, Ceri has focused on transferring the skills and lessons learnt from operating in high performing teams to the worlds of corporate business and of individual personal development. He has coached at the highest level in organisations such as Diageo, Unilever, Red Bull and Reuters. His personal dynamism, creativity, thoughtfulness and charm combined with his great leadership skills continue to win him plaudits and motivate teams and individuals both in business and the outdoors.

Ceri’s expedition and corporate work conspire to take him away from home a great deal; in the past 12 months Ceri has successful led charity trekking adventures to Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Kinabalo crossed the Continental Divide in Costa Rica, trekked across the Great Wall of China and spent several weeks Charity Dog Sledding in Norway. He remains above all however, a dedicated family man. He has been married to Geraldine for 27 years and together they have two fantastic daughters – Sarah and Katie.

Ceri lives in Devon where he continues to train on a daily basis by swimming, mountain biking and wherever and whenever possible by whitewater kayaking, which remains his first love in the outdoors. Ceri is due to Dog Sled the last degree to the North Pole in April 2009.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine training team.

Expedition and Wilderness Medicine Staff Biographies: Neville Howard

A product of the English public school system, Neville became sufficiently hardened to bad food and arbitrary discipline to join the navy. The navy became aware at about the same time that he did that they were not ideally suited each to the other following an unfortunate incident involving a chaplain and a stoker.After a lotus-eating interlude (coal miner, dude ranch hand and Texan wine waiter) he joined the army. Being small, scruffy and unreliable, he proved not to be ideal material for the Coldstream Guards either and, with a barely suppressed mutual sigh of relief following an unfortunate incident with a Japanese tourist, he slid sideways into special forces.

His last job was commanding 22 SAS Regiment. He now runs the family estate at Greystoke (or vice versa).