Medical Report

by Craig Cook, MD

As careful as we are… Photograph by Stuart Sandin.

Life on a scientific vessel cruising tropical islands sounds exotic, but there is often a price to pay. The scientific work can be quite physically demanding. Almost everyone has bruises from banging into things, even from getting into and out of our dive boats. No matter how careful we are, we are at the mercy of unexpected movements of the boat. Today for instance, we had six foot seas to contend with which almost guarantees a collision with something.

On the bottom, these same conditions can result in a scrape from a piece of coral. As careful as we are, cuts and scrapes do occur. On land these may only require a Band-Aid, but in the tropics these same scrapes and cuts can turn into something serious. Even the tiniest abrasion can become infected and become much bigger. To make sure this does not occur, we diligently wash each wound and, if necessary, take antibiotics. Right now we have three members of the scientific team on antibiotics.

Other medical issues we have had to treat include an ear infection and a tooth abscess. We even had a minor surgery case. The good news is that none of these has become serious enough to prevent the affected person from continuing their research. While you may be surprised by this lengthy list, but this is pretty much routine for this size of an expedition.