An up close visit with one of the polar bears of Churchill.When we began building ExpedMed, we tried to look for ways to expose medical professionals to Expedition Medicine and Wilderness Medicine experiences in authentic ways. We recruited the best faculty and published an acclaimed textbook to help us present these important topics.
In 2009, we began offering CME trips to give our participants "hands on" experience in exotic environments.
Our goal was to partner with the best travel companies in the world. Our partners were expected to have not only exemplary records of safety and expertise in their travel programs, but also be committed to eco-friendly policies and sustainable growth practices that invest in local, indigenous poulations.
Downtown Churchill, CanadaOur first trip was with Tusker Trail, one of the preiminent safari and trekking companies in Africa. Tusker leads our Kilimanjaro CME trips each year.
Our most recent trip was to Churchill, Canada to visit this remote outpost that sees more polar bears than anywhere on earth. We selected travel company Frontiers North Adventures to partner with our ExpedMed team, and the result was a great experience in the "frozen tundra." This is a quick report on our trip...
Our trip was in later October and began in Winnipeg, Canada.
Winnipeg is a medium-sized city in which I was able to spend a few days. During my time in Winnipeg I took a recommendation from Urbanspoon and visited Hermanos, a local restaurant. The food at Hermanos was great. I went there twice and got great service and ate the ribeye each time. Fantastic. I even splurged one night and tried their Black Gold dessert which was incredible. Great place to eat.
The morning of the trip, our ExpedMed group boarded a shuttle and were transported with the rest of the Frontiers North crowd to a private jet for our flight to Churchill. It was efficient and stress-free. We had plenty of space to spread out and we landed in Churchill without any problems.
When we were on the tarmac, the wind was howling and the temperature was noticeably cooler than it was in Winnipeg.
I was ecstatic to finally be in Churchill, a town I had read about years before as an amazing intersection of polar bears and humans.
We spent that first day touring the small town and visiting the "polar bear jail," a place where polar bears are sent when they wander into town.
Churchill has been dealing with polar bears for so long, they have developed a system for protecting the humans in this remote outpost and also being respectful and protective of the bears. Any polar bear that wanders into Churchill is either tranquilized or, more often, caught in one of the large polar bear traps. Once captured, the bear is sent to the "jail" for a period of time then flown outside the city and released.
Late in the afternoon our group boarded a famed "Tundra Buggy" and headed to our lodging for the next few days: the Tundra Buggy Lodge.
Those touring Churchill can decide to stay in town or in the Tundra Buggy Lodge. Our group booked rooms in the Lodge so we could get the feel for staying out on the Tundra, in the environment of the awesome creatures we hoped to see.
The next few days went by quickly.
We spent our days rolling around the tundra looking for bears and the evenings sharing excellent food and good company in the Lodge with our fellow travelers.
While Churchill and the Tundra Buggy Lodge were interesting experiences, the bears were the stars, of course.
Polar bears are incredible animals, well-adapted to their frozen environment. I had seen a few during my trip to the North Pole in 2008, but these bears were up close-- really, really close. It was a privilege to see these magnificent beasts a few feet away from our Buggy, and a series of moments that I will never forget.
At some point in the future I hope to post some more about Churchill, our ExpedMed adventures, and polar bears, but for now I must round this up. I'll finish with a few more photos and a video of one of the big bears as it approached out Buggy heading for a seal carcass.
Our plane arrives in Churchill
A Tundra BuggyPolar bear in front of the Tundra Buggy LodgeTwo polar bears An ExpedMed lecture inside a Tundra Buggy
For those who can't find the time to click over to the Great White Shark Adventure informational page, here's the itinerary below.
More information about our dive partners, Shark Diver, can be found on their website: www.SharkDiver.com
Shark Diving Itinerary
Welcome to Shark Diver.Your dive expedition to the Pacific's most pristine and robust white shark dive site leaves from San Diego's famous H&M's Landing, 10 minutes from San Diego's airport and home to California's long range fishing fleets. Shark Divers vessel the MV Horizon boards divers from California to Isla Guadalupe. We are on site usually 20 hours later and beginning your first exciting white shark cage dives after a hearty breakfast. We take a maximum of 12 divers per trip - perfect for dive clubs, corporate groups, film crews, and photographers.
Boarding begins at 9:00pm -11.00pm on the evening prior to your expedition date. Prior to boarding most of our divers have booked with the Holiday Inn Bayside under our special Shark Diver Rate, we are happy to be working again this year with the Bayside, our 8th season with them. Divers generally come in a day early and take advantage of the Baysides free airport shuttle service and 7 minute location from the international airport. Our divers also like discover San Diego's Gas Lamp District, home to some of California's top restaurants and entertainment venues located minutes from the hotel. If you're coming to San Diego early plan on visiting the town. We generally depart from the docks at 11:00-12.00pm. Travel time to Guadalupe is approximately 20 hours. Once you arrive to the vessel you'll be greeted by Martin Graf, your dive operations manager. Martin holds the enviable distinction of spending the most time at Isla Guadalupe aside from the shark researchers at CICIMAR. His wealth of shark knowledge and dive operations prowess makes Martin our top choice again this year to run the white shark program on the MV Horizon. He also speaks German and Swiss fluently and works in tandem with the entire vessel crew who you'll soon get acquainted with. For now it's time to get settled and into bed, try and get some sleep because in a few hours from now the next time you set your head on your pillow just know there will probably be two or three white sharks swimming underneath it!
We will arrive at Guadalupe approximately 9:00 am (breakfast time). The arrival to the island is, and remains, one of our favorite moments. For many of our shark divers who booked with us almost a year ago this is it, the Island of the Great White Sharks, you have arrived. If you're an early coffee drinker this moment will be etched in your mind for the rest of your life as you stand on the bow of the vessel taking in the scene. Guadalupe's craggy volcanic flanks rise 4000' to literally scrape the bottoms of cloud formations here, it's a big island. The large rock off to the tip of the island is Point Norte, or Shark Fin Rock, we'll pass this on to the small bay just ahead, white shark central. Upon arrival, we anchor, deploy our huge shark cages and begin operations. Breakfast is served in the galley, and Martin will be doing an in depth dive safety review prior to your cage time. Cage diving rotations are usually one hour at a time and the vessel is divided into four crews of three with six divers in the water at any given time. Your first cage dive is usually preceded by someone yelling "White Shaaaark!". A few years ago we had a young deck hand "Mikey from Main" who's tell tale white shark yell is a tradition we carry on to this day. Welcome to cage diving, keep your eyes open as you walk down a short ladder into the industries largest shark cages, chances are in a few minutes you'll ba face to face with the Great White shark. Lunch is served around noon and for most divers this is a welcome break from the morning and getting used to the world of cage diving. We pick up the afternoons cage diving rotations after lunch or power through depending on the shark action this day. Dinner is served approximately 6:00pm. After a hot shower and a change into your post shark encounter clothes, it's time for a sunset beer, or three on the bow with the other newly minted shark divers. Congratulations, it took you a long time to get here, but you did it, and now you're ready for the next two days of white sharks, and more. You are an official Shark Diver.
If we decide to try a different site, we move early and begin operations at sunrise. Cage diving continues throughout the day and rotation times will be increased. Usually we stay in place as our crews and vessel captain know where to place the vessel and where the sharks are. Chances are you'll see another long range boat in the bay, but the sharks will transit from boat to boat, and with the density of animals on site everyone get's into sharks. We may get boarded by the MX Navy while were on site. They will board each vessel at least three or four time during the season. They are looking for valid commercial shark diving permits, passenger manifests, and some water or a soda. These young marines work very hard with little pay, so we always offer them lunch and water. Do not be surprised to see guns, this is a a typical Mexican boarding procedure and they have been doing this since 2008. The good news is their presence deters unlawful sport fishing boats who, in 2007, hooked a white shark right in front of us. Fortunately we sent a small boat over to them to film what they were doing and they soon cut the line and ran away. Having the MX Navy on site is a good thing. Day three ends as day two did, by now you have moved over to the expert class of Shark Diver and you know what the color of a white sharks eye really is. Only a real shark diver knows this so consider yourself one of the fortunate few. Like we said before, tonight when you go to sleep just know that a few feet below you lurk some of the white sharks you have come to know over the past few days. Shredder with his unique dorsal fin, Fat Tony, Mau, or even Bruce. They'll be here when you wake up.
By now, everyone will be old pros and enjoy the relaxed feel of things. Your shark cage team will be some of your best friends even after this latest adventure with Shark Diver. Cage teams typically assign names for themselves, "The Wild Ones", "Team Dark Tide" when it's time to go cage diving you're team is ready and able, knowing where all the gear is located and how to suit up. Our photographers will be focused on getting the "best of the trip" shot and shark fans will now be able to accurately measure, sex, and identify each new shark. Shark Diver has a share and share alike policy towards shark images. Basically if you happen to nail the best trip shot, share it. Each night we provide memory sticks so divers can offload images and share them with each other. That way every divers goes home with the absolute best images they can, a group effort. The last cage rotation is always bitter sweet, time to say good by to animals that have captured our imaginations since, for many, childhood. It's amazing but sometimes if you really connect with an animal, there's a moment where the two of you just click. Shredder has been clicking with divers since our first season, and we hope you get to meet him this year, as he has proven to be quite a unique and wonderful animal.We depart around dinner time and head for home, make sure you take some last minute snap shots of Shark Fin Rock on the way out, usually the light is just right and it's a great way to say good by.
We travel back to San Diego and arrive at the docks approximately 5:00 - 7:00 pm.
Here at ExpedMed we've been working hard to put together yet another great conference agenda for our annual Expedition Medicine National Conference this September 28-30, 2012.
Since 2007 we've had this event in Washington, DC and we're pleased to announce the 2012 agenda. There are a few new names on the speaker list, and over the next few weeks we'll be introducing you to some of our new lecturers.
For those who want to make sure not to miss this exceptional eduational opportunity, we're already taking registrations. The event will once again be at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in downtown DC, and will cover many important topics related to medical care on expeditions and in remote locations.
So, without further ado, here's the agenda for our 2012 ExpedMed event in Washington, DC. Remember, all participants will receive 20 hours of Category I CME credits and our 700 page hardback textbook Expedition & Wilderness Medicine, free of charge.
September 28th, Friday
8:00-10:00am The Expedition Medical Kit, Michael Callahan
9:00-10:00am Travel Immunizations, David Townes
10:30-11:30am Living and Working Abroad, Gregory Bledsoe
11:30-12:30 High Altitude Medicine I, Peter Hackett
2:00pm-3:00pm Wilderness Medicine EMS, Will Smith
3:00pm-4:00pm High Altitude Medicine II, Peter Hackett
4:30-5:30pm Wilderness Mass Casualty Incident, Will Smith
5:30pm-6:30pm Disaster Medicine, Christina Catlett
September 29th, Saturday
8:00-9:00am Medical Direction in the Wilderness, Will Smith
9:00-10:00am Patients at Altitude, Peter Hackett
10:30-11:30am Bringing Combat Medicine to the Wilderness, Will Smith
11:30-12:30 Malaria Prevention and Chemoprophylaxis, Alan Magill
2pm-3pm Telemedicine, David Townes
3pm-4pm Getting High for Science, Peter Hackett
4:30-5:30pm Rabies, Alan Magill
5:30pm-6:30pm Reptile Envenomations, Michael Callahan
September 30th, Sunday
8:00-9:00am Dive Medicine, Matthew Partrick
9:00-10:00am Self-Treatment for Expeditions, Alan Magill
10:30-11:30am When Animals Attack, Christina Catlett
11:30-12:30 Arthropod Envenomations, Michael Callahan
In the summer of 2009, I was working in my local Emergency Department when my cell phone informed me of an incoming text.
"At 14,500 feet. Preparing to summit tomorrow. All is well," read the text.
"Great," I thought, "and here I am dealing with sniffles and low back pain."
The text had come in from the face of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent of Africa and one of the famed "Seven Summits." The sender was my good friend Dr. David Townes who was helping lead a group of physicians to the summit of Kili for an ExpedMed CME event.
I was happy for Dave and excited for the CME participants, but also insanely jealous.
Kilimanjaro is one of those romantic "must do" experiences for adventures around the world. It stands just over 19,000 feet in northeastern Tanzania and rises independently from the plains of the surrounding region. Mentioned by famed writers like Hemmingway (The Snows of Kilimanjaro), this magnificent peak towers over the African landscape and is the backdrop to many classic safari portraits.
I am pleased to say that Dave and the rest of the ExpedMed CME group made it to the top of the mountain in 2009. The participants enjoyed it so much, we swore we'd lead another group back to Kili in the near future, but of course, as often happens, months turn into years and no new ExpedMed Kilimanjaro climbs were scheduled-- until now.
In the spring of 2012 we have scheduled another CME climb up Kilimanjaro. The dates are March 24-April 6, 2012 . Our outfitters are once again our esteemed friends at Tusker Trail. Details of the CME trip can been seen at this Tusker link.
Find more information including pictures from the last Kili CME climb can be found on the ExpedMed Kilimanjaro CME Adventure page under the "Expedition & Wilderness Medicine Adventure" tab above. Here's a video about this majestic mountain:
We've partnered with Shark Diver, a great organization headed by Patric Douglas, to give you an exceptional travel experience. Shark Diver is one of the finest travel companies in the world and their exceptional experience with the Great Whites of Guadalupe Island is unparalleled.