Whenever we felt that something was wrong with our body and we were sick, the first person that we thought of (maybe after our moms) was our doctors. They were the ones who could figure things out for us, whether we were really ill, about to die, or plainly just being paranoid about ourselves. It’s fairly easy to set an appointment and drive ourselves to their clinic or hospital. But what would you do if you were miles and miles away in the middle of the frozen Antarctic and there was only one doctor available in the whole area: yourself. To Dr. Leonid Rogozov, it was a do-or-die situation when he found out he was suffering from appendicitis.
Soviet Antarctic Expeditions
On November 30, 1955, the Soviets had their very first Antarctic Expedition led by Mikhail Somov, along with 125 expedition members and 75 crew members. They brought with them three diesel-electric ships that they used as transportation: RV Ob, RV Lean, and refrigerator ship No. 7, which was specifically for transporting perishables.
The principal task and purpose of the expedition were to organize their main base, the Mirny Station, and conduct limited scientific observations. They were also tasked to perform reconnaissance of sites for the inland bases Vostok and Sovetskaya and oceanography of the Indian ocean. This expedition that lasted until 1957 was the first among the 36 Soviet expeditions that they conducted, the last one being from 1991 to 1992. Among those, the sixth was definitely one of the most unforgettable expeditions that happened.
The Team’s Physician
Leonid Rogozov was from Borzinsky District Dauriya Station, Chita Oblast, a remote village east of Siberia and was just about 10 miles from the Soviet border. He completed medical studies at Saint Petersburg State Pediatric Medical Academy Leningrad Pediatric Medical Institute as a general practitioner. Then, he started his clinical training to be a surgeon. At the age of 26 in 1960, his training was interrupted because he joined the sixth Soviet Antarctic Expedition as the team’s medical doctor.