I am going outside now. I may be some time. Autumn is approaching, and our thoughts turn naturally to howling winds, snow drifts and temperatures of 40 degrees below freezing. But if you think it's going to be bad here, spare a thought for the medics of the British Antarctic Survey.

Having set up its base camp at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, the BAS medical unit sends researchers off every August to the south pole, where they spend anything from nine to 20 months in the icy wilderness. It's enough to make an English summer seem inviting.

At certain times, evacuation from the BAS's three remote research stations can become impossible, so medical staff receive some specialist training in areas of medicine not usually experienced by most doctors - such as dentistry and the taking and processing of x-ray films.

But thanks to the wonders of technology, expert help is also on hand, as medical consultants at Derriford provide 24-hour cover by satellite telephone, fax and e-mail. Indeed, the use of telemedicine forms one strand of BAS's three current human biology and medicine research programmes.

Further research on the medical effects of long periods of isolation in Antarctic conditions has been carried out by the US Naval Health Research Center. It found that the latitude, altitude and mean annual temperature at its research stations were good indicators of depression, insomnia, hostility and anxiety.

Unexpectedly, however, except for the insomnia which affected people at the beginning of winter, the more severe the environment, the less severe were the symptoms. Other research (abstracts and ordering information are set out on the site) looks at 'Antarctica as a model for the human exploration of Mars'.

Now that would really make an interesting research post for an ambitious junior doctor.