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Home > Health & Wellness > Emergency, remote & rural medicine

Emergency, remote & rural medicine

Today I am thrilled to introduce you all to my colleague and hero, Expeditioner, Antarctic Explorer, Wingsuit base jumper and sky diver, Dr Glen Singleman.

Dr. Glenn Singleman is one of Australia’s most successful adventurers. Over his long career in extreme sport he’s notched up World Records, World Firsts and many prestigious awards.

Glenn is also a practicing medical doctor specialising in Emergency, Remote and Rural Medicine. He’s medical director for some of Australia’s most prestigious adventure races such as the Six Foot Track Marathon, the North Face 100 and the Big Red Run.

As a Doctor Glenn regularly works in remote Aboriginal communities. Even more remote, Glenn has been doctor for countless expeditions ranging from climbing Mt Minto in Antarctica to James Cameron’s Deep Sea Challenger expedition. 

A WINGSUIT BASE jump OFF THE HIGHEST CLIFF IN THE WORLD

Amanda: What would be the top 3 most exhilarating things you have ever done?

Glen: Well, its pretty hard to beat doing a wingsuit base jump off the highest cliff in the world. It is also very hard to describe, because when no one has a lexion of experience that A) covers Base jumping and B) covers high altitude mountaineering  capped off by the highest base jump in the world. 

So, it’s difficult to say, hey it was fun or it was difficult, or it was exciting, because it was the culmination of years of planning, preparation and work. Getting ourselves fit, getting the best technology we could get and then facing a really brutal physical environment.

We did a wingsuit base jump off the top of the mountain which was 6604 m² , nearly 22,000 feet.  It took us three weeks to climb up there to get acclimatized to the altitude and all that stuff. 

To be at that altitude and stand there, on the edge of a sheer cliff, 2000 feet high. Straight down, between your toes, is this 2000 feet of nothing, and then you launch yourself into that nothing….

That´s incredible.

THE FLOW STATE AND PEAK EXPERIENCES

That was one of those, as psychologists call “peak experiences” when you go into flow and you must perform to perfection or you can get hurt or killed. So, you are in this zone where are you transcend time and you transcend what you thought were your physical and mental limitations and you don’t think any words anymore you thinking pure action.

To be in that zone is to be the best you can be, you have to be the best you can be. The understanding that you are capable of so much more than you ever thought was possible, is a profoundly moving and mind altering experience. 

All the experiences and expeditions I have done and lead are really all about the expedition, and the external journey, being a metaphor for the internal journey, because that is what I get the most out of, in expeditioning. 

When you go to extreme and remote environments, you have to find extreme  and remote resources within yourself to deal with the environment that you in, so you’re meeting parts of yourself that you didn’t even know were there and finding these resources and these aspects of your self, that’s an incredibly fulfilling and exciting and self revelatory experience, which is the passion of expeditioning.

When you read (Ernest) Shackleton´s and (Ronald) Amundsen´s diaries, that’s why they are all there. Yes they are sugar coating it with “I´m here on a scientific expedition” but really they are there for the personal journey for themselves to find out about these deep unknown parts of themselves that, if they had ever been in these environments, they would never have known of them. That is the really exciting thing about going on expeditions.

Yes, I can say… 

“Ive climbed Mountains, I have wing suited in extreme places, we did the first wing suit flight over the Grand Canyon, over the 3 biggest cities in Australia, we have wingsuited over the outback of Australia.” 

“I´ve been on a submersible to the Titanic, I have been on ships through the North West Passage and been down to Antarctica, there are so many experiences, each of which is a peak experience.”

For me, I have deliberately built my skills following my passions, and set my mind up so that I tend to regard things as possible, rather than impossible and I ask myself the question “how can we do it?” rather than “we can’t do it”

I TEND TO THINK OF THINGS AS POSSIBLE, RATHER THAN IMPOSSIBLE.

That has lead me to meet countless kindred spirits, like yourself Amanda and people like James Cameron. I was the Doctor for the deep sea expedition to go to the Marianas trench in 2012 and through that, I have just completed an incredible expedition, which was the 5 Deeps expedition, which was an expedition to take a commercially certified submersible vehicle to the bottom of each of the 5 Oceans. This was the brainchild of an incredible American entrepreneur called Victor Viscovov. He spent years building this incredible submersible vehicle, that is, apparently, the most innovative vehicle since Apollo 11. It is now commercially certified to go to any point on the Ocean floor with a pilot and a passenger. So, that opens up so many possibilities, not only for science but for exploration and it´s a real mind bender. We know lots about the Moon and Mars and we have satellites and probes and we spend lots of money on astronomy, and I get that. That is the part of our psyche wants to look out at the stars and wonder what’s out there.

What is even more interesting is what is in here and what is at the bottom of the ocean. And to me, as I said before, there is a psychological parallel. I like going into the dark unknown corners of my own psyche. The expedition that fits perfectly with that is going with the 5 Deeps to the bottom of the Ocean and also brings up some interesting  and challenging medical things to think about.

THE DEEPEST TRENCH IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN

The 5 Deeps is a one atmosphere sphere, its a completely closed life support system. Everything you need has to be supplied, like Oxygen. Everything you don’t need has to be removed, like Carbon Dioxide. To think through all the life support parameters while your bobbing up and down in the middle of, for example one place we went to was in the Southern Ocean, the deepest trench in the Southern Ocean, the South Sandwich Trench, which is about 400 NM SE of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. That was well and truly in the screaming 60´s and to have the ware-with-all to manage the risk of an Ocean like that with swells like that and Icebergs like that and to put a submersible under the bottom and recover it safely, that was an incredible logistic challenge that was incredible to be involved with. So many times, once we had just launched a submersible and there were all these Penguins speaking in the water, and it was so bizarre! It was like they were saying “hello”. Icebergs everywhere, it was incredible. What an incredible place to go and what an incredible expedition to be on.

Amanda: when you are talking about the wing suit expeditions, and you say “we” you are talking about your amazing wife Heather, is that correct?

WINGSUITING WITH EXPEDITION PARTNER & WIFE

Glen: Yes, that’s correct. My wife and I have been wingsuiting for 17 years. We started in 2003. We love expeditioning together. As I said before, because expeditioning takes you on an internal journey, so going on an expedition or doing something special with your special partner, unveils aspects or possibilities in a relationship that you never thought possible. We have seen each others strengths. We have seen each others weaknesses, in extremes. We have also shared unique experiences in wonderful parts of the world. We have seen things that no other couple have ever experienced. 

OVER ANTARCTICA

We did the first wing suit skydives in Antarctica. I am a consultant for ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions) and they have a private base in the Elsworth Mountains in Antractica, about half way to the South Pole. They run mountaineering expeditions to Vincent Massive out of their base, which is a Summer base, they have lots of aircraft. So they asked Heather and myself to set up sky diving operation for the times when they are not using the aircraft for the mountaineers. So, we now take elite skydivers from all over the world down to experience this environment that is truly special. To see that aspect of Antarctica,  to get out of a plane at 14000 feet and look out on one side all you see is the Antarctic plateau and on the other side the Trans-Antarctic Mountains going forever. In Antarctica there is no dust, no pollution and no heat haze, so you can literally see 400km in any direction when you get out of the plane. We just look around and experience a really surreal, other world, special environment. It is wonderful and to do that together is truly unique.

THE EXPEDITION MIND?

Amanda: You have spoken a lot about the mindset and the internal journey, how does one prepare for such epic journeys?

Glen: I think it´s about having imagination and then having the courage to indulge your imagination. When I talk about wingsuiting, it´s like when you were a kid and you dreamed about flying, it´s just like that. Except it´s louder, more intense and there are certain rules you have to follow. Every child that has ever fantasised about going on expedition across the Ocean or to the bottom of the Ocean, like Jules Verne 40000 legs under the sea, we have all thought about that kind of stuff, and fantasised about it as children, but it takes a certain level of organisation in your own mind to commit to do that.

I didn’t just start and say, “Next weekend I am going to jump off the highest cliff…”it was for me, and also for my wife Heather, it was a gradual process of building our level of competence and confidence. We all need to have certain skills to deal with these remote and extreme environments. 

I was fortunate being a Doctor that I had a map of how to go about building the skills that you require, the physical, emotional and mental skills. Medicine is a wonderful training ground of the scientific method, how do you manage the risk of extreme situations, that’s what emergency medicine is all about and that’s what expeditioning medicine is all about. It is all very nice until, boom, how did that happen, how am I going to manage it? You have this mental preparedness mindset, so as I do more and more expeditions I become more competent and confident and more able to balance the physical and the mental and the emotional aspects of what is going on. 

UNTIL THAT FORCE 10 GALE SLAPS YOU IN THE FACE

As I do more expeditions, I get better at them. It´s a strange thing to say, but I begin to understand what’s going on with technology and people. Putting people into extreme, remote environments on one hand can be liberating, until that force 10 gale slaps you and slaps you in the face. Thats when you have got to have those mental resources to deal with the rapidly changing and potentially dangerous environment. I have done enough expeditioning now that I am starting to feel confident about handling a lot more things than I thought was ever possible. That is a wonderful, liberating thing for me. 

I truly do now think anything is possible.

GLEN SINGLEMAN 

www.baseclimb.com

By Amanda Jean Hewson Beaver (BSN, MIPH)

Registered Emergency Nurse & MCA Medical Trainer

Senior Lecturer in Marine Medicine

www.msos.org.uk

Stay Safe, Stay Hydrated

Best Wishes

Amanda