Eleven Other Americans
Extracted From South Pole
From Sue
Originally posted 4-24-1

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, officials said.
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 until October.
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 condition.
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 base staff.
Flights to the South Pole station are normally halted from late February until November because of the extreme winter cold and darkness.
"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.
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