In 1961, a Soviet surgeon stuck in an Antarctic base came down with acute appendicitis. As the only trained physician, he was forced to operate ... on himself. Alexis dug up an old journal entry by the surgeon:

I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders -- after all, it's showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time -- I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn't notice them ... I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and ...

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.