Wednesday, June 22, 2016

South Pole rescue

Daring Antarctic rescue mission sets off for South Pole : Nature News & Comment

Someone's sick at the South Pole station and a little twin engine plane is flying there to the rescue.  It has happened before, but the conditions are extraordinary:

In 2001, Ron Shemenski, another physician overwintering at the station, came down with gallstones and pancreatitis. The NSF decided his condition was severe enough to warrant bringing him out. “I didn't want to look back on that year and think there might have been something we could have done to save his life,” says Jerry Macala, who was the station manager for the winter and participated in discussions about whether to evacuate Shemenski. Eventually, a Twin Otter flown by Kenn Borek pilots touched down on a runway outlined by
flaming barrels.

“It was very cold, more than 90 below,” says Nathan Tift, who served as one of two meteorologists that winter. The evacuation was “so strange”, he says, “just because it had never happened before”. Crew members filed out and took a photograph of themselves with the visiting Twin Otter. But then, when the plane tried to take off, they realized that its skis had frozen to the runway from the friction of landing.

Workers had to rock the plane from side to side to liberate it, so that it could eventually take off.

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