(CTN NEWS) – Australia has initiated an urgent operation to rescue a researcher facing a “developing medical condition” from the remote Casey outpost in Antarctica.
The icebreaker RSV Nuyina departed from Tasmania last week, according to the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP).
This daring mission spans thousands of miles, as air rescue options were deemed unfeasible due to the harsh Antarctic conditions.
Although the AAP did not disclose the specifics of the researcher’s condition, they emphasized the need for specialized treatment.
Australian Nuyina Icebreaker: A $528 Million Marvel of Antarctic Transportation
Preparing the Nuyina for this rescue mission took weeks, involving the installation of helicopters.
The Casey research station is located 2,139 miles (3,443 km) from Hobart in Tasmania and is one of the three permanent Antarctic stations operated by the AAP.
The Nuyina, which had a construction cost of A$528 million ($342 million; £271 million), boasts a top speed of 16 knots, equivalent to about 18 miles per hour, resulting in a journey lasting several days.
It’s important to note that an air evacuation was not feasible, primarily due to the challenging conditions at the nearby Wilkins Aerodrome near Casey, which features an ice runway often rendered unusable during the severe winter season.
Preparing the runway for use would require weeks of effort, making the icebreaker the swifter option.
Challenges of Medical Care and Evacuations in Antarctica
Medical facilities at the research station are limited, and only about 20 individuals reside there during the harshest winter months.
The AAP emphasized its utmost priority to be the well-being of its personnel and assured that the researcher’s family is being kept fully informed of the situation.
Additionally, they confirmed the safety and whereabouts of all other station personnel.
Before dispatching researchers to Antarctica, Australia mandates comprehensive medical evaluations to ensure their fitness for the harsh conditions.
Evacuations from this extremely challenging region are typically intricate, costly, fraught with peril, and may necessitate cooperation with international allies.
In December 2020, Australia sought assistance from both the US and China to facilitate the evacuation of one of their expedition members.
Earlier that year, an Australian Airbus A319 was deployed to McMurdo station to evacuate an ill American researcher.
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