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 is the first time we have ever been to an Antarctic Station — only a few days after the end of the winter season,” Robb Cliftons, acting general manager for operations and logistic at the Australian Antarctic Division told 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.
A spokesperson for the agency told Insider that one of the expeditioners at the Casey station had “a developing medical condition,” which required specialist treatment back in Australia.
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.
When the Nuyina was close to the site of the research, the deck sent out two helicopters with a medical team. According to Australian Antarctic Program, the aircraft flew for nearly an hour to reach Casey to retrieve the expeditioner.
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 refused to provide details regarding the evacuation expeditioner’s health. Clifton, however, said that they will be cared for in Nuyina medical facility by hospital staff and polar medicine specialists on the return voyage to Hobart.
A spokesperson for the agency said that the Nuyina should be back in Hobart by next week depending on weather conditions along the Southern Ocean. 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.