There are two main things that ARE going to kill you here…

1. Poisoning
2. A Fire

And I suppose another thing… if someone turns bitter and sours in the 24 hour darkness and carries out Murder… Who would do such a thing? It could have been Colonel Mustard, in our (wine) Cellar with a lead pipe? Or was it Professor Plum in the Billiard Room with the Lighter and the Candlestick – a case of Arson perhaps?

This morning my heart was awoken from its much needed rest, into a state of panic – the fire alarm went off.

I checked my pulse… Atrial Fibrillation.

We should have scrambled from our beds like US air force pilots into their F-14 Tomcat jets for take-off into battle. Instead, I rolled over and pulled the pillow closer to my ears to suffocate the sound. I think I heard myself instinctively say aloud, ‘Mummy, I don’t want to go to school today, I don’t feel well.’

“Ghost-rider, Maverick has definitely NOT engaged. Neither has Goose, Iceman, or any of the other of Top Gun’s pilots.”

There was no luck in a cowardly retreat from the rude racket, so I reluctantly got up. And what a racket. Flashing lights, the siren and a rough Italian voice over the Megaphone, ‘Firrrrre, Firrrre.’

This was our second simulated fire drill.

In the words of ‘Goose’, “Ah-haaa, great balls of fire”.

Of course, they simulated a fire on the 3rd floor- in my lab. Naturally, at first, the selected firemen, had tried to put out an imaginary fire on the ground floor, before being told the ‘real’ fire was on the 3rd floor.

Bear in mind also that in France, the Ground Floor is referred to as being the 1st floor, whereas in England, the Ground Floor is the Ground Floor. Confusion Struck.

Whoops. Unlucky boys. That’s typical of NHS communication. I know it well. Human factors in the making of a disaster. My old consultant anaesthetist, pilot and lecturer on Human factors, Dr Levison, would love this. The Swiss Cheese Model in play – watching the mistake fly right through every hole in the cheese, all perfectly aligned. I carried on filming.

After several minutes delay – in fact about 17 minutes – some of us had started to die with acute inhalation injury and respiratory distress, where the Larynx swelled with oedema from the mixed toxic fumes, suffocating the chosen few to death. I tried to intubate, but failed, having not a single Laryngeal Mask Airway Device present on the base.

Whilst others would die weeks later from full thickness burns, fluid loss, and infection. I would try a skin graft- the first in Antarctica in fact – having improvised and sterilised the wood plane in the workshop, but the graft wouldn’t take – it would be rejected – and then the person would have died- that would be Frenchie I – ‘La Femme Fatale’ – Stephane.

I knew where I would go… to the safety of the swimming pool, my new past-time.

I was quick to mention, that our only saving grace is that we have 1/3rd less atmospheric pressure here than at sea level, so theoretically the fire would be fuelled by less Oxygen and therefore, unlike Saturn V rocket, our base may not have been launched into orbit as quickly.

At least I could call in and maybe try and pull a favour at European Space Agency’s Mission Control, and ask if our research could be adapted to a real space environment and if they could track us in Orbit, maybe even dock us with the International Space Station… “ESA… we have a problem.”

We died heroes.

Better luck next time.

I just wish Shackleton could have been here – we would have been in Elephant Island before you can say ‘Treacle’, or ‘Tasty, Toasted Treacle’.

I’ll take mine Well Done… “Golden Syrup anybody?”

I think we all just died, Again.

In Lou Reed’s words (from his song ‘The Great American Whale’)… Turn me over, I’m done.


Here is the Opening Scene from the film, Top Gun: