Antarctica, distant and exotic, yet cold and lifeless, is a place built for media fibs. Any small inconvenience, paired with a tantalizing subzero temperature (usually including the wind-chill for dramatic purposes, even if you’re inside), is enough to drive the hometown papers bonkers with stories of their American sons and daughters braving the harshest conditions on earth for the good of all humanity.
Us brave conquistadors who visit the ice soon learn that the professional media has no pragmatic ideas about the place at all, so it is easy to feed them back their own ideas of heroism at the end of the earth, skipping over the small comfortable details that just so happen to make the place amenable for Quality Assurance Representatives and cubicle workers, as well as those who occasionally fear for frostbite.
And some love playing it up more than others.
Here is a recent story by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that highlights many of the surreal collisions of fact when an enthusiastic journalist, with romantic ideas of the Antarctic, receives information from an enthusiastic Air National Guardsman who considers a discussion with the media merely an opportunity for a heroic press release.
Here is the link to the full article, commentary is featured below:
The 56-year-old National Science Foundation member required emergency medical evacuation for a possible cardiovascular condition deemed too risky to fly him unescorted from Antarctica to New Zealand. At last word, he was under medical care in Christchurch, the Air Force said.
The patient did not work for the National Science Foundation. Also, it is notable here that the patient was at risk for flying, but the United States Antarctic Program had the patient working until two days before he left Antarctica.
Capt. Greg Richert, the on-board flight surgeon, in a news release from Hickam said, “We took an oxygen setup, emergency airway kits, a defibrillator and emergency intervention kit, just to be on the safe side.”
Richert called his work “the best job in the world — deploying at a moment’s notice, and helping people.”
Captain Richert, whatever his virtues, did not, as he tells the media, deploy at a moment’s notice.