Day 17. Medical results of the AFU-2015 expedition
There is a book which is called “Philosophy of sledge journeys”. Unfortunately there is no such book in the library of the RV “Professor Molchanov”, though it might have come at hand. Especially for the return journey when almost all work has been finished and all expedition members desperately want to get back home.
This book was written by the Danish archeologist and poet, Egil Knut. His key quotation is: “The journey frees us from our inner prison. It fills us up with great pleasure. However, the reasons for it are not quite clear. New promising ideas occur to us. The longer we go, the easier it gets to resist our useless thoughts. In the polar desert we become peaceful creatures, we find harmony, we become perfect people”.
Of course, the AFU-2015 is not a sledge journey, though it might become a great idea for future expeditions. But the striking fact is that in spite of all the hardships, which occurred during the expedition, tough weather conditions and fatigue, the expedition members’ health has improved, this was checked in the medical laboratory.
First functional condition examination took place in the beginning of the expedition, from July 4 till July 7. About 20 expedition members went through such examination even before the expedition. The results then were very different, some even had functional distress. Now, almost 2 weeks later, the expedition members’ health condition, on the one hand, became more or less the same and, on the other hand, improved considerably. What was the reason for that?
— The most important factor, in my view, is not the health condition improvement itself, but the fact that it became sustainable and more or less the same, became closer to the conventional norm, — says Artem Podoplekin, the head of the medical and biological laboratory on board the vessel. — One group taking part in the research consists of students who easier adapt to changes of climatic and geographical conditions. Another group consists of scientists and researchers, who are much older and some do not live in Arkhangelsk. So, in the beginning of the expedition they had to adapt not only to the life on board, but to the life at another latitude, peculiarities of the light day, air composition and atmospheric pressure, and simply to relax after their journey to Arkhangelsk. In the beginning of the study, the group was very different, brain mapping showed different results. Besides, the tossing in the beginning of the expedition was really strong, some people have never faced such phenomenon before. But by the end of the expedition their health condition and reaction have become more or less the same, and there are several reasons for that.
One of the major reasons is strict dietary regime: breakfast at 8.00, lunch at 12.00 and dinner at 19.00. Those who found the gap between lunch and dinner to be too long could go to the common-room and drink tea with cakes or pizza. Do we often eat regularly at home? Almost never. Do adults often have porridge for breakfast? The answer is clear. But it is hard to imagine breakfast on board without porridge. As for personal examples, one of the members of the medical module managed to get rid of bleeding gum only on board, though before the expedition even expensive toothpaste and other hygiene products didn’t help.
Another important thing is the absence of external factors which influence the psychics badly, for example, television, cell phones and the Internet (the quality of Internet on board was very low, so it was much more pleasant not to use it at all). The discussions about politics which used to be so sharp before the expedition stopped very quickly. Cell phones and tablets were forgotten. People started to read books. Raisa Neyaglova-Kolosova, the managing director of “Paulsen” publishing house, which specializes on books about the Arctic and Antarctic, arranged the library on board on the first day of the expedition. The library consists of only one bookcase, but it was a complete chaos. Raisa was unable to cope with that, so she separated the books in Russian from the books in the foreign languages (it turned out that there are more of them than the books in Russian) and put them all in the alphabetic order.
In the second part of the expedition, total democratization of the relations between the expedition members was added to the previously mentioned factors. It is very hard to get rid of hierarchical prejudice, but still the younger and the older generations, presented among the expedition members, managed to create friendly partnership relations.
And thus we have managed to come closer to the most important merit of AFU-2015. It is not just floating university, it is something different, much more important, it is real Utopia. We are free from everyday problems (including money), household duties as well as political agenda, we are completely focused on scientific research. For example, during lunch your colleague suddenly says something like: “I have thought a lot and have come to the conclusion that the law of latitudinal zonality cannot be applied to the Arctic”. And though people around are not experts in latitudinal zonality, they are not surprised, they understand, they are interested in the subject. And the atmosphere becomes very warm and friendly.
The only piece of advice which is suitable here is to find the book “Philosophy of sledge journeys”, to publish it in Russian and to bring it to the RV “Professor Molchanov” library by the beginning of the next Arctic Floating University expedition.