- PUNTA ARENAS, Chile
(CNN) -- A new rescue flight left an Antarctic base for the South Pole
on Tuesday to pick upan ailing American doctor at a research station there,
- The mission to retrieve Dr. Ronald Shemenski from the
Amundsen-Scott Station left hours after a New Zealand air force plane retrieved
11 Americans from different outpost on the other side of Antarctica.
- The Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo
airplane safely rose from the runway at the icy and windswept Pegasus airfield
at McMurdo Station, just about an hour after landing to retrieve the four
sick staffers and seven other Americans, according to Antarctica New Zealand,
a government research group.
- The risky winter trip was undertaken because one of the
Americans requires immediate medical attention, said John Sherve, the New
Zealand manager for Raytheon Polar Services, their employer.
- Some of the others also have medical needs that can't
be met in McMurdo, he said. "Right now, the count is eleven people
coming out, for various reasons," Sherve told The Associated Press.
"The primary purpose of the mission is emergency medical evacuation
of one employee."
- He declined to comment on the patients' conditions, but
New Zealand air force sources said one man had a serious heart condition
that required urgent hospital treatment.
- The second rescue attempt was delayed for a second day
Monday because of bad weather.
- Shemenski is the only physician among the 50 people,
including researchers and construction workers, at the Amundsen-Scott Station
-- 850 miles from McMurdo -- where the National Science Foundation conducts
astronomy and astrophysics research.
- He will be replaced by Dr. Betty Carlisle, a physician
with previous experience at Amundsen-Scott. If the exchange cannot be made
within two weeks, before winter closes in, it will have to wait, probably
- Shemenski recently developed pancreatitis after one of
his gall stones plugged a duct between his pancreas and gall bladder. Though
his condition has improved, NSF spokesman Curt Suplee said he has a 30
percent chance of recurrence, which could develop into a life-threatening
- The plane at McMurdo kept its engines running to prevent
them freezing in the minus 22 temperatures. The plane was expected to arrive
back in Christchurch late Tuesday.
- With little cloud and no wind, weather conditions were
near ideal for the rescue mission. Bad weather conditions on the Antarctic
coast had earlier delayed the rescue mission 24 hours. Others among the
evacuees had "family emergencies they need to go take care of,"
Sherve said, describing the mass evacuation as "unprecedented."
- All eleven are employees of Raytheon, which provides
support services at the McMurdo Base, 800 miles from the South Pole.
- There are 211 Americans left at the base following the
evacuation, where they will winter over until the next flights, scheduled
in late August as Antarctica's spring begins. The evacuation flight carried
fresh fruit and vegetables and personal mail to the ice-and-snow bound
- Flights to the South Pole station are normally halted
from late February until November because of the extreme winter cold and
- "The wind's blowing like hell. We're getting reduced
visibility and blowing snow. If the winds calm down and there's less cloud
cover, we'll get better visibility," said Steve Penikett, general
manager of Kenn Borek Air Ltd., the Canadian airline company leading the
evacuation for the doctor.
- Aviation experts say a landing at the South Pole now
is especially dangerous with temperatures now 75 degrees below zero --
143 below with the wind chill -- and skies are nearly pitch-black some
20 hours of the day.
- The rescue effort is the second in two years.
- In October 1999, Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the lone physician
at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was evacuated after she discovered
a breast tumor that was diagnosed as cancerous.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Site Served by TheHostPros