Meet the doctors planning to ski across Antarctica in a world first for the NHS

The men aim to cover 2,600km of snow and ice over 110 days, conquering Antarctica’s two permanent ice sheets, all while pulling a 200kg sled each. 

If completed, they will follow in the footsteps of other great explorers, such as Borge Ousland who journeyed across the region in 1997, albeit with the aid of a sail.

A shorter crossing was achieved by Colin O’Brady and Louis Rudd in 2018, who took on a 1,480km expedition over the duration of 54 and 56 days respectively, journeying across the Antarctic landmass but not tackling the vast permanent ice sheets that make up the wider continent.

But as the world was crippled by the new novel coronavirus, the adventure, which was set for 2021, came to a standstill. 

Dr Stephenson, originally from York, currently lives in New Zealand, while Dr Andrews, originally from Cornwall, had been living in Australia for the last 15 years, moving to Cardiff on 5 March. 

His first day leading an intubation team was on 16 March – a week later Prime Minister Boris Johnson – and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – plunged the UK into an unprecedented lockdown. 

Just days after beginning a new job, all semi elective procedures were cancelled at Dr Andrews’ hospital, which went straight into its Covid-19 pandemic response. 

This meant Dr Andrews worked on emergency intubation teams, responding to calls from across the hospital to treat their sickest patients and put them on ventilators or implement other life saving strategies before taking them to intensive care. 

“It was then that I realised the magnitude of what we were facing and the reality really hit home. There was just no capacity to do anything else or to continue with the expedition. 

“We had to do what was most important and what was most important at that time was to give everything we have, all our focus and time and energy into looking after our patients and our communities,” explained Dr Andrews. 

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