Once we finally got out of Antarctica we thought that getting back to the UK would be easy as we had standby seats on every plane leaving Santiago between the 20th and the 26th. However, we then bought a copy of the Independent and saw its front page: "Road Hell, Railway Hell, Airport Hell "! Despite their dia warning we got into Heathrow, round the M25 (on the Friday before Chirstmas!) and down to Portsmouth for the next round of physiological testing without any problems.
The testing all day last Saturday went well. It is too early to get definite results, these are likely to be available early in February, but already some changes can be identified:
- Although not much fitter, I am much stronger in my legs. This isn't suprising since I hauled a sledge weighing over 100 kg for over 70km!
- Some of the team were able to complete similar amounts of work on the exercise bike with lower heart rates; is this due to increased plasma levels or an effect of exercising at altitude?
- The scales we used in Patriot Hills seem to have been weighing light and contrary to a previous post I've put on about 2.5kg of weight. Interestingly this weight looks like it's been put on as fat around the stomach; is this my body trying to insulate itself?
- My fingers are less sensitive to temperature changes; is this a minor cold injury caused by the nerve endings having been frozen?
Once testing was over there was suddenly a lot to do very quickly: clothes cleaning (very, very needed!), Christmas shopping, getting back to the parents in time for Christmas lunch etc. Finally, on Christmas Day, I could take a break and concentrate on trying to put on another 2.5kg!
I think coming back just before Christmas has really helped me not to miss Antarctica and the team. Yes it was an incredible experience, yes it's an awesome place, but I've really enjoyed seeing friends and family, being able to sleep on my side, sitting in a chair and having a varied diet (although turkey does seem to be a regular occurrence). And it hasn't been too hard re-integrating into society, I've just had to remember not to use the pee bottle, to wash more often than once a month and that socks that can stand up on their own aren't a thing to marvel at.
The next stage is to start posting data as it becomes available. Quite quickly I should be able to get up raw data on things like the weather, how I was feeling and what we were doing. This information can be used in class to make hypotheses, draw graphs and make your own conclusions. Then, over the next couple of months, I will be posting more information on how I'm using this expedition educationally, the science results, relevant lesson plans and the teaching materials created.