The physical effects of living in Antarctica
A study was made on seventeen young men at a Polar scientific research station over a period of one year. Serial observations were made of body composition, energy expenditure and performance. Weather recordings were carried out in order to determine the influence of seasons on the various parameters described and an attempt made to ascertain any groupings of the individuals. Body composition was recorded weekly by weighing and by skinfold thickness measurements that were subsequently converted into total body fat estimations. Both these parameters increased predominantly during the first six months. Activity patterns derived by personal diary recall showed that on average ten per cent of time was spent outside, with a variation between summer and winter. Mean energy expenditure derived from these figures was at a level of 3600 kcal/day. This compares favourably with results from previous polar expeditions and distinction is made between a static and a travelling scientific station. Discussion is centred on a proposed stress triad that includes isolation, darkness and severe weather. Various combinations of these environmental stresses are considered and an evaluation is made of their effects on performance that was measured using a cycle ergometer. It is shown that the group became significantly more fit over the year and that the correlation between fitness change and energy expenditure is poor. The influence of body composition on fitness is considered and a re-appraisal is made of cold acclimatization. It is confirmed that Man on a static scientific research station spends only a small proportion of time outside and the conclusion is drawn that Antarctica now, with the facilities of modern building insulation techniques and specialised clothing, together with an adequate diet, is a desirable habitat for Man who may soon colonize the region to exploit natural resources.