09 October 2011

On Banning Women from the South Pole Research Station

South Pole Station NSF (viaNewsDiscover)

During certain times of the year, travel to and from the South Pole Station is incredibly dangerous. That is why everyone who works there over the southern winter has to accept a long winter's confinement to a lonely duty, when they sign on to the South Pole Station.

Currently, South Pole Station site manager Renee-Nicole Douceur is at her wit's end, demanding immediate evacuation from the station. She says that she is just hanging around, looking out her window, and sees no reason why she cannot be evacuated, one and half months after she claims she suffered a "stroke."

Officials of the National Science Foundation and Raytheon, the entities that run the base, are stating that only life-threatening conditions warrant evacuation under the conditions that are currently present.
The manager of the U.S. South Pole station wants to be evacuated, saying she suffered a stroke more than a month ago. But U.S. polar officials say she'll have to wait until special ski-equipped airplanes can land at the frozen base several weeks from now.

The dispute between site manager Renee-Nicole Douceur, the National Science Foundation and the operator of the base, Raytheon Polar Services, has been simmering since Douceur said she suffered a stroke on Aug. 27. The physician at the U.S.-run Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station recommended her immediate evacuation. But consulting doctors hired by Raytheon and the NSF disagreed.

...In a phone interview with Discovery News, Douceur said she suffers from blurry vision and is worried about long-term effects to her health. She says she can't wait another few weeks.

"I'm just hanging in there and I'm looking out my window and it's nice and clear bright and sunny," Douceur said. I'm saying to myself why isn't there a plane here to get me out of here today or even yesterday?"

Douceur said she worried that she may have had an aneurysm or a blood clot to the brain. The base doesn't have MRI or other scanning equipment to do make that diagnosis.

"I have not been treated fairly here," Douceur said. "They have been making decisions based on budgets. Isn't a stroke a serious thing?"

Representatives of the NSF and Raytheon say a medical evacuation over the Antarctic continent is risky and only attempted if there's a life-threatening condition.

In 1999, for example, base doctor Jerri Nielson was airlifted evacuated in mid-October after treating herself for breast cancer over winter. She died in 2009. In August 2001, another base doctor, Ron Shemenski, was evacuated to Chile after he was diagnosed with potentially life-threatening pancreatitis.

NSF officials in Washington said they are checking in daily on Douceur.

"In considering whether to attempt a very risky emergency medical evacuation during the challenging winter season in Antarctica, NSF must always balance the patient's condition with the possibility for injury or the loss of life of the patient, the flight crew and personnel on the ground at South Pole against the potential benefits to the patient," an NSF spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.

"We are continuing to monitor the patient's condition closely and are prepared to consider alternative courses of action if merited by a change in condition, as determined by medical experts." _NewsDiscover

The physician at the station "recommended immediate evacuation," but such a recommendation could be based upon a multitude of reasons -- including psychological reasons. It could also be made to placate the base manager, with the doctor knowing that higher officials are likely to overrule the recommendation.

The concept of "having to make do where you are," being beyond immediate evacuation to civilisation, is foreign to many modern westerners, but has long been a factor for sailors on long voyages, expeditioners on long and remote expeditions, military units on long campaigns, and so on. But the participants of such expeditions, campaigns, and voyages have historically been men, for the most part.

Colonisation, where entire families were transported permanently, far from civilised amenities, required a tougher breed of woman and child than modern westerners are accustomed to seeing.

Typically, women have been protected and kept from dangerous occupations and situations as much as possible, in the western world. A woman's (or a child's) call for help triggers a powerful response in most men, leading them to drop whatever they are doing in order to provide whatever help they can.

But the feminist world in which we live demands that women be provided every opportunity that men are offered, disregarding the problems which such mandates may cause. Modern children are pampered and sheltered throughout most of childhood and adolescence -- often well into adulthood. There is generally no "rite of passage" into adulthood or adult responsiblity before the assumption of occupational duties and responsibilities.

Military physicians are well acquainted with the phenomenon of female service members intentionally getting pregnant so as to be relieved of duties, and often discharged. It is an easy out, when one changes her mind, much like a no-fault divorce. Under such rules, one does not truly have to think about a decision before making it, since backing out can be so painless.

But imagine an expedition to Mars or beyond, where outside help is truly unavailable, and evacuation is out of the question. Will women be allowed to participate in such expeditions, and if so, what sort of "informed consent" will be required?

At this point, no one knows how serious the site manager's condition truly is, since modern diagnostic equipment is not available at the South Pole Station. But the information in the article is not describing an immediate life or death situation. And the circus surrounding her demands for evacuation seem so sterotypically female, that one is forced to wonder if operators of the station are making a mistake by allowing women to take on positions of responsibility in such a remote location.

Certainly the selection procedures should be called into question, and political correctness be damned. ;-)

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Blogger Kirk said...

On a related note, they're coming out with a new version of "The Thing." And, of course, they just have to have a chick starring in what looks to be the lead roll. Though from the write-up the movie actually looks interesting, I think having a woman in this movie is as bad as having a woman in the cast of "Glengarry Glenn Ross".


On a side note, John Carpenter had an all-male cast in his version because he felt it made the atmosphere of the base seem a little more dangerous. It makes me wonder--does putting women into places like the South Pole make such areas seem less dangerous than they really are? Does having women around cause men to drop their guard?

Sunday, 09 October, 2011  
Blogger bruce said...

times have changed. I was in a tiny museum just west of the Cascades some years ago, and struck by the description of a mother loosing some of her children in a river crossing. I don't remember the consequences but was impressed by her ability to continue.
Women can be tough, but you have to remove the veneer of civilization to see it. Since there is an ATM at the pole there is civilization.

Sunday, 09 October, 2011  
Blogger LarryD said...

Kirk: The answer to your question is yes.

Monday, 10 October, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can't stand the cold, get back in the kitchen.

Monday, 10 October, 2011  
Blogger Weekend Yachtsman said...

"I'm saying to myself why isn't there a plane here to get me out of here today or even yesterday?"

Jesus what a whinger. And French, to boot.

There isn't a plane ready for your every whim, madam, because it's the bloody SOUTH POLE. Deal with it.

Wednesday, 12 October, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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