Posted by Nicola
Date: 19 August 2010
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: 45c
Sunrise: The first sunrise 12.26
With just a couple of days to go before we leave Scott Base, Antarctica, we are pleased to have come through the winter with just a couple of cases of frost-nip. We have all experienced the extreme pain of warming up fingers frozen whilst trying to operate cameras in thin gloves, but the polar clothing and toe and hand-warmers have kept us toasty.
Frostbite was a common complaint of the early explorers whose exposed skin, toes and fingers would turn black and swell with large blisters, the pain must have been excruciating. In the lab this week we had an artefact, known as ‘Brocklehurst’s leg protector’ which reminded us of how lucky we have been.
Sir Phillip Brocklehurst was the 19 year old assistant geologist on Shackleton’s 1907-09 expedition and part of the first team to climb Mount Erebus. The ascent was made in improvised climbing boots made of ski boots with nails hammered into the soles. On the treacherous slopes they survived a 36-hour blizzard before continuing the climb in intense cold, Brocklehurst still in his ski boots as he didn’t think it necessary to change into the better insulated ‘finnesko’ boots of reindeer skin. After nine hours both his big toes were black and frostbitten and he remained in the tent whilst the others made it to the summit.
Later one of his toes was amputated by Marshall (the expedition surgeon and cartographer) with Mackay (expedition doctor) acting as anaesthetist. The cold meant that the wounds healed slowly and as he recovered in Shackleton’s bed the metal cage protected the damaged foot from the weight of the blankets. Thank goodness for toe warmers!