Susan and I spent Friday and Saturday in Bucksport and East Orland taking a wilderness first aid course. Peary was with us, although more interested in the surroundings than in first aid, because his vessel, the SS Roosevelt, was built on Verona Island, across from Bucksport. The course was sponsored by a local boy’s camp, Flying Moose Lodge, and was taught by Wilderness Medical Associates. Flying Moose is a rustic and scenic location, although there are too many trees for Arctic folks. The course itself was held at the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, where the Fish and Wildlife service raises salmon specific to particular Maine watersheds. The visitor’s center is well worth a visit if you are in the area.
These days, Polar Shelf requires all field parties to have proof of some first aid training before they can go into the field – a great idea when medical help is hours away at best, and may be even days away.
In the past, large scale expeditions such as Peary’s brought their own medical staff with them. On the North Pole expedition, Dr. John Goodsell was the doctor, as well as an active member of the exploration party.
He did not go all the way to the North Pole, and in fact was one of the first teams to turn back, all part of Peary’s careful plan for supporting parties to lay in caches for his ‘dash’ to the Pole. Goodsell’s medical expertise was required of course, and he treated various injuries and ailments from frostbite to stomach complaints, likely associated with a steady diet of pemmican.
Goodsell could not be everywhere, so sledging parties were outfitted with medical kits containing equipment for basic first aid as well as an assortment of state of the art medications. Note the “Bism” on the right – presumably what we know today as pink bismuth, for treating a variety of minor digestive complaints.
We will also carry a first aid kit that will include the usual over-the-counter medications, as well as this handy and portable guide, provided by Wilderness Medical Associates. With any luck, we won’t need to use it, but we’re happy to know it is there!