“PQ” is US Antarctic Program speak for Physically Qualify – and basically means proving that you’re healthy enough to work on earth’s harshest continent with limited possibility for evacuation. Last week we got our PQ packets – 14 pages of forms and instructions, now in the latest greatest clickable design. As the PQ packet informs us, if there were to be a medical emergency in Antarctica it would take several days or more to get the ailing person to a hospital. Which would be bad (obviously) for the ailing person, and a drain on resources which are better spent doing science.
And so – on to proving that we are not, in fact, ticking time bombs just waiting to be a logistics and PR nightmare in Antarctica. This is more involved than you might think. First there’s the interminable form of clicking “no” to pages of diseases and conditions you’ve never even heard of. Then there’s over 20 different blood tests to do. Next you have to get a dentist to sign off that your teeth are fine, and send in original x-rays. And if you’re new to Antarctic research, haven’t PQed in a few years, or are old (us “kids” under 30 have it easy) there’s even more to do.
Now, I despise dentists, and generally avoid all medical establishments as much as possible. So you can imagine I’m not exactly thrilled about the process of getting PQ. Last year it took the best part of a week’s worth of effort to get all the tests and all the forms in order and sent out.
But at the same time PQ is one of the early steps toward going to ANTARCTICA. It’s hard to explain how much I love being in Antarctica – and so getting the packet of forms is excited butterflies – one step closer to ice bergs and glaciers and penguins, and most especially krill.
And I will admit that I like getting to explain over and over and over that I’m going to work in Antarctica– even if I am explaining it to dentists/doctors/nurses.