There comes a point prior to the beginning of each new season when all of the BAS staff for that year have been recruited, and they send everyone off to Girton college, Cambridge, for the pre-deployment conference. The idea was to educate everyone about what BAS do and how they do it, as well as getting us all hyped up and desperate to get going! They also chucked in a few more sobering discussions about the risks involved and advice on how to deal with the inevitable difficulties of living with a small group of people over 9000 miles away from home.
All in all, this was a brilliant few days. Aside from the great seminars and lectures, this was the first opportunity to meet up with many of the people with whom I’d be spending the next 18 months of my life. Almost without exception (I was pleased to note) they were a great bunch, which was a relief! There was quite a poignant moment when the 18 Rothera winterers were gathered together for the first time, and we could really start to appreciate how the long winter months would shape up.
After a couple of days of this we moved onto the first aid training, which was mandatory for everyone going South (a few select people would also go on to do a more advanced first aid course, but not me because as the radio operator, my place would be in the comms tower in any emergency situation). The course was run by a huge army of doctors, nurses and paramedics and had a strong focus on the practicalities of keeping people alive, rather than learning to tie bandages neatly. This included using lots of actors to simulate the various injuries and ailments, which we then had to manage as best we could. A highlight of this exercise was one senior BAS member of staff politely enquiring of an actor, who had an ice-axe embedded in his chest “so can you tell me where it hurts?”.