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Australia rescues a sick worker in Antarctica using icebreakers and helicopters

Australia rescues a sick worker in Antarctica using icebreakers and helicopters

The Australian Antarctic Research Program said it had successfully evacuated a “sick explorer” from its research station in the far south of the continent.

In a complex process in the early days of southern hemisphere spring – With temperatures reaching -10.9 degrees Celsius (about 12 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday – the Australian Antarctic Program deployed the icebreaker RSV Nuyina from Hobart in the island state of Tasmania, where the program is based.

“It’s the first time we’ve been to a station in Antarctica,” Rob Clifton, the programme’s acting general manager of operations, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The program said in an emailed statement that the ship traveled more than 1,860 miles – the same length as the trip from the capital to Albuquerque – and broke through the ice until it came within 78 nautical miles of Australia’s Casey Research Station on Sunday.

From there, two helicopters from the RSV Nuyina took off, making the nearly hour-long journey to the outpost, where they “collected the expedition” and brought it to the ship. On board, the program said, the person received medical care from “Polar Medicine Doctors” and hospital staff from Hobart.

It declined to share more details about the explorer and his condition, citing privacy concerns, although it did say the person had an “evolving medical condition and would require specialist assessment and care in Australia”.

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Clifton told the ABC that although the evacuation took place “only a day or two after winter officially ended,” it was “still very much winter in Antarctica.”

He said the program, a government entity, had contacted other Antarctic nations’ programs, including the United States’, to inquire about the location of their icebreakers in case they were to be used. But in the end, he told the ABC: “We’ve only been able to do it with Australian resources.”

The Australian Antarctic Program typically uses long-range aircraft to ferry people and equipment between Hobart and a small airfield near Casey Research Station in the summer months, according to its website. Casey is one of three stations Australia operates year-round, and is the closest permanent station to the country, “perched on the edge of the massive Antarctic ice sheet,” about 2,400 miles south of Perth in Western Australia, according to the program’s website.

In the summer, up to 100 people can be stationed at each station, although in the winter the group shrinks to 15 to 20 people.

The icebreaker is on its way back to Hobart, where it is expected to arrive next week, weather permitting.

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