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Of course we must all strive to excel when treating our patients, and part of that is the insistence that we have the equipment and machinery necessary to perform to the best of our ability - however this article did make me pause for a moment to consider what these men would have made of our warm, well lit rooms, regularly serviced machinery and complex computer systems. Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been 'Heroic Surgery and anaesthesia during the age of Antarctic exploration (1895-1922)'?