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Safety and Medical Support

Keeping you safe and well in Antarctica

We care about your safety - every step of the way. All our activities are subject to detailed risk management and contingency planning that consider the remote and harsh environment in which we operate. We maintain a 24-hour phone watch during our operating season and are ready to respond - day or night - in case of emergency.

Medical Support

Union Glacier Camp has a basic clinic with a selection of medications and equipment for the care and stabilization of patients. The clinic is staffed by a doctor and medic who specialize in emergency and remote medicine. They are available should you become ill or injured while at Union Glacier Camp or in the field. One of our medical staff accompanies all South Pole flights. Our field guides all hold first aid certification and we provide additional emergency response training for our staff in Chile and Antarctica.

Serious accidents and illness are uncommon, but medical emergencies would require evacuation to Punta Arenas, Chile, 1,883 miles (3030km) away. Evacuation flights may be delayed by weather.

Keeping Safe and Well

Most injuries and illness are preventable through proper preparation and common sense. Here are some things you can do to keep safe and well.

Before leaving home
  • Provide complete and honest answers on your medical form. We need this information to help you choose an Experience suited to your abilities and to provide the best possible medical care should you become ill or injured while in Antarctica.
  • Provide complete and honest answers on your skills resume (technical programs only). Your guide will set your objectives and pace based on your experience and skill level.
  • We recommend a pre-trip medical. Discuss any concerns with your physician.
  • Read all pre-trip materials and contact us if you have any questions. We want you to be well informed about the anticipated conditions and any potential risks on your Experience.
  • Discuss special needs with us. We do our best to accommodate special needs and it helps to know about them in advance. 
  • Bring all required items on the equipment list. Proper clothing and equipment help you safely achieve your goal and avoid cold injury. Specialized clothing and equipment are not available for purchase in Punta Arenas, Chile.
  • Purchase and bring with you an extra four weeks of any essential medications to cover delays in Antarctica.
  • You must read and sign a waiver that discloses risks.
In Antarctica
  • You are a long way from advanced medical care. Use common sense and stay well within your limits at all times.
  • You are in an unfamiliar environment. Listen to safety briefings and follow instructions. Take it easy your first few days. Ask if you have any questions.
  • Tell the doctor or your guide right away if you feel unwell or have a problem. Cold, blisters and many other issues are easily resolved if they are addressed right away, but can become serious if ignored.
  • Stay with your group and do not wander from camp. Weather can change suddenly. Snow covered areas may hide crevasses. Snow slopes can lead to a fall.
  • Be especially careful on blue ice, snow slopes and steps. Ice and snow surfaces can be slippery.
  • You can easily become dehydrated in the cold dry air. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Enjoy our hearty meals and delicious desserts. Your body uses the calories to keep warm. You can diet when you get home!
  • Keep skin covered in cold and windy conditions to prevent frostbite. Wear gloves when taking photos or handling equipment. Use a balaclava, scarf or face mask.
  • Use antiseptic hand-gel provided in the washrooms and dining hall to prevent the spread of germs.

Insurance

Due to the high cost of evacuation from Antarctica all guests are required to provide cover for medical evacuation. Evacuation costs vary by trip and we will advise the cover required for your particular experience. We can provide information about insurance companies should you need assistance.

Photos from Flickr:
Union Glacier Camp Infrastructure
Investment in equipment and infrastructure
Pre-placed fuel caches and back-up aircraft
ANI Weather stations improve safety of our flight operations
Satellite phone, HF and VHF radio, and email communications
Established communications protocols
Mandatory daily check-in for field parties
24-hr emergency response
ANI Doctor at Union Glacier Camp
Consultation with ANI doctor at Union Glacier
ANI doctor or medic accompanies South Pole flights
Sign out log for all out-of-camp excursions
Tag board tracks personnel locations
Preparing Vinson emergency caches
Vinson Low Camp emergency cache
Vinson High Camp emergency cache
ANI guides are trained in wilderness first aid
Emergency response training for staff at Union Glacier Camp
Crevasse rescue training for ANI staff
Crevasse extraction by ANI rescue guides
Rescue of injured climber
ANI Doctor provides oxygen to a patient
Ski pole 'pogies' help prevent cold injury
High altitude climbing boots help prevent cold injury
Full face masks help prevent cold injury