Australia has initiated an urgent operation to rescue a researcher with a “developing medical condition” from the remote Casey research outpost in Antarctica. The icebreaker RSV Nuyina departed from Tasmania, traveling thousands of miles to reach the station after adverse conditions ruled out an air rescue.
While the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP) did not specify the researcher’s condition, they noted that the person requires specialist treatment. The operation took weeks to prepare, including equipping the Nuyina with helicopters.
The Casey research station is around 2,139 miles (3,443 km) from Hobart in Tasmania and is one of three permanent Antarctic stations managed by the AAP. Due to its top speed of 16 knots (about 18 miles per hour), the journey will take several days.
The decision to use an icebreaker for the rescue was made because an air evacuation was not feasible. The nearby Wilkins aerodrome near Casey has an ice runway that often becomes unusable during the harsh winter and would require weeks of preparation.
The AAP emphasized that the “wellbeing of our people is our highest priority” and said the researcher’s family is being kept informed. Currently, about 20 people live at the Casey research station during the harsh Antarctic winter.
Rescue operations from Antarctica are challenging, expensive, and require international collaboration.
In December 2020, Australia sought assistance from the US and China to evacuate an expeditioner, and earlier that year, an Australian Airbus A319 was sent to McMurdo station to evacuate an unwell American.