- Australia’s Antarctic research agency rescued a sick expeditioner from a research site this month.
- The Nuyina, a research and supply vessel, traveled more than 1,800 miles to reach the site.
- Two helicopters were deployed from the vessel’s deck to retrieve the sick researcher.
Australia’s Antarctic research agency undertook a daring rescue mission this month after one of its Antarctic expeditioners required urgent medical care while living at a remote research station 2,400 miles due south of Perth.
Last week, the Australian Antarctic Program employed the RSV Nuyina, a state-of-the-art research and supply vessel, to travel the more than 1,800 miles between the ship’s home base of Hobart on the island state of Tasmania and the Casey research center located on the perch of a large Antarctic ice cap, a spokesperson for the agency told Insider.
The rescue operation came as the Southern Hemisphere marked the beginning of the spring season with temperatures hovering just around 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s the earliest we’ve ever gone to an Antarctic station — just a day or two after the official end of winter,” Robb Clifton, the acting general manager of operations and logistics at the Australian Antarctic Division, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “But it’s still very much winter in Antarctica.”
The Casey research station, which is the closest permanent Antarctic station to Australia, is home to only about 20 people during the winter, the outlet reported.
One of the station’s expeditioners had a”developing medical condition” that required specialist care back in Australia, the agency spokesperson said in an email statement to Insider.
The agency sent the Nuyina from Hobart to Casey last week, using the half-a-billion dollar vessel to cut through miles of deep sea ice. The ship was able to reach a location about 78 nautical miles from Casey on Sunday, the agency said.
Once the Nuyina reached proximity to the research site, two helicopters carrying a medical retrieval team were deployed from the vessel’s deck. The aircraft took a nearly hour long flight to get to Casey and retrieve the sick expeditioner, according to the Australian Antarctic Program.
Clifton said it was agreeable weather that ultimately allowed the two helicopters to make the final stretch of the trip.
“The first phase of the evacuation was performed safely and successfully and the ship is now on the return voyage to Hobart,” Clifton said.
The agency declined to offer details about the evacuated expeditioner’s current health, but Clifton said they would be looked after in the Nuyina’s medical facility staffed by polar medicine doctors and hospital medical staff on the journey back to Hobart.
The Nuyina is due back in Hobart sometime next week, depending on the weather conditions in the Southern Ocean, an agency spokesperson said. The icebreaker, which cost $528 million to design and build, according to the Australian government, was introduced in 2021 to conduct science missions and transport researchers and supplies to Antarctica.
“We were really only able to attempt it because of the fantastic capabilities the Nuyina gives us in terms of icebreaking and aircraft capability,” Clifton said.