Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

February 15, 2014


Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 1:00 am

Antarctica, 21st Century Moon

In Med School, they taught us diseases named for the egocentric physicians who’d described them. Such names are useless – they don’t describe the involved pathology or physiology. But here, in cold, wet, remote, magnificent Antarctica, two such disease names arose where sub-freezing water splashes angrily against an iceberg.

Charcot joint and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease evoke the epynemeous Paris physician whose estate was spent by the son of the famous doctor, constructing a ship for Antarctic exploration. Charcot junior was driven to be an explorer of the only remaining unknown land on the planet (“the Last Frontier” of the day). He bade farewell to his wife – the granddaughter of Victor Hugo – and crunched his ship ashore at Booth Island.

Today we lean all our weight into the fierce wind, trying to stay erect and photograph what remains of Charcot’s stone hut. He and his crew, like several other 19th – 20th century explorers, spent the winter: a suicidal move considering what mid-Summer looks like.

6 Booth Charcot

We and our cameras are ordered back to the ship, as the wind and waves are becoming unsafe for the Zodiacs to transport us between shore and ship.

“We don’t want to strand any guests on the island,” one staff person told me. “Again,” he added.

6 Booth wind

Charcot was just one of several turn-of-century explorers who planted flags here. Exploration of the Antarctic was the moon-shot of the day. Several countries have claimed pieces of Antarctica, but a current treaty states no one “owns” it.

Until someone finds oil, coal, or rare metals (component of ‘puters) here, it should remain spectacularly pristine. But, as with the moon, the fear is for future exploitation or militarization.

Next:  the weight of the Ice

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