Lecture by: Dr Alexander Kumar
Location: British Consulate General, 1 Supreme Court Road, Pacific Place, Admiralty, by kind permission of Her Majesty’s Consul-General
We are delighted to welcome to the Royal Geographical Society Dr Alexander Kumar to speak on “A Winter at the South Pole”. In this lecture, Dr Kumar, the station doctor of the Concordia science station in Antarctica, speaks about his year’s stay on this forbidding continent, as well as his exploration and scientific discovery on Antarctica for the European Space Agency. Dr Kumar also speaks about his role organising the science research for the upcoming expeditions for two recent RGS speakers, Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s winter crossing of Antarctica and Tim Jarvis’s retracing of Shackleton’s famous crossing from Elephant Island to and across South Georgia.
In this talk, Dr Kumar discusses the challenges of spending a winter in Antarctica at the Concordia Station, the most extreme environment in Antarctica, conducting spaceflight research with the European Space Agency. Dr Kumar speaks of his experiences, illustrated by extraordinary photography taken over the past year, whilst living at one of the world’s most remote and extreme human outposts on the Antarctic Plateau. Alongside his role as the Concordia station doctor, he has conducted research for the European Space Agency’s human spaceflight programme.
Since this area is the closest researchers can come to living on the surface of another planet, Concordia is utilised as a space analogue environment for research towards a manned mission to Mars. By enduring the planet’s coldest temperatures, at below -80 degrees Celsius with three months of darkness, the crew has attempted to fathom the effects of the ‘Worst Winter in the World’ which might be experienced on another planet.
Following on from Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s recent visit to the Royal Geographical Society, Dr Kumar’s work is of particular interest to the RGS, in view of his polar human sciences research with Dr Mike Stroud on Antarctica. This is an essential part of the preparations for Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s upcoming expedition to attempt the first winter crossing of Antarctica, “The Coldest Journey” expedition. Dr Kumar also speaks of his involvement with Tim Jarvis’s upcoming Shackleton Epic expedition, retracing Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous crossing from Elephant Island to and across South Georgia. In addition, Dr Kumar is medical advisor to a third expedition, the International Trans Antarctic Centennial Expedition 2014 which, by contrast, plans to complete Sir Ernest Shackleton’s planned route across Antarctica.
Dr Alexander Kumar read medicine at the University of London, following which he qualified as a doctor, and then read for a second degree in International Public Health. Following a long fascination with the Polar regions, his research and expeditions have principally been to these regions, including the Canadian Arctic and most importantly Antarctica. Dr Kumar has also researched snake bite injuries, assisting communities in Asia, Africa and South America. In addition he is an accomplished photographer, using film and photography to help raise awareness about global health inequality, including indigenous peoples’ health, the impact of humans on the planet and complex human-wildlife conflict.