An Australian expeditioner is being evacuated from Antarctica with help from US and Chinese teams.
A complex logistical effort expected to take 10 days is underway to get the patient from Davis research station using US aircraft and a Chinese ship and helicopters.
“This is really part of that global program that happens in Antarctica where nations support each other,” Australian Antarctic Division director Kim Ellis said on Saturday.
Chinese icebreaker MV Xue Long 2 is on its way to Davis where its helicopters will then transfer the patient to a ski-way inland of the station.
A US ski-equipped Basler aircraft will then fly 2200km from the US station McMurdo to Australia’s Wilkins Aerodrome, near Casey station, where it will pick up an Australian doctor.
The plane will then fly to Davis to pick up the patient, whose medical condition is undisclosed but is not COVID-related, and return to Wilkins.
After that, the patient will either be flown back to Hobart, or if the ice is not cold enough for a plane to land, return by ship in January.
“The operation is particularly difficult due to COVID-19 precautions, availability of weather windows and the lead times required to prepare both the Davis ski-way and the ice runway at Wilkins,” Mr Ellis said.
Support from other nations is needed because Australia does not have it’s own ski-equipped aircraft this season.
The evacuation is expected to take 10 days in total, though Mr Ellis said it would depend on Antarctic weather.
The crews on both the US and Chinese aircraft have undergone a period of quarantine prior to reaching Antarctica and will maintain a social distance during the operation and undertake a deep clean of the aircraft.