Antarctica rescue mission: One of the most challenging rescue operation was carried out in Antarctica. The five day rescue mission saw collaboration between Australia and China to carry out medical evacuation of an Australian expeditioner from the Antarctica continent. The operation was successful along with help from the US.
Kim Ellis, the Australian Antarctic Division director, called it one of the most challenging and complex evacuation done by his team. The mission that took precisely five days saw coverage of thousands of kilometres of the continent and use of ships, helicopters and planes.
When the operation commenced, the sick Australian expeditioner was in east Antarctica’s Davis research station. At the same time Chinese icebreaker was being transported to nearby Chinese research station. Its helicopters were then dispatched to transfer many Australian expeditioners at Davis to 40 km inland site. This was to make way for ski-way building to enable landing of US aircraft. US’s Basler, a ski-equipped aircraft, was being prepared for the mission evacuation.
Basler first made a 2,200 km flight to pick up an Australian doctor. It travelled from McMurdo research station to Australia’s Wilkins Aerodrome near Casey station. After that the plane flew to Davis’s ski-way where it picked up the patient and then returned to Wilkins Aerodrome. The 2,800 km round trip between Wilkins and Davis was covered by Basler in this frame.
Meanwhile, Australian Airbus A319 passenger aircraft was at Wilkins to receive patient flown in by Basler. Patient was then transported to Hobart on 24th December.
The fact that at present Australia doesn’t have ski-equipped aircraft in the icy continent made China and US jump in for the joint rescue mission.
Ellis remarked that the operation saw “massive level of multinational cooperation and reflects the very best of that multinational activity that happens in Antarctica.” He also praised Australian expeditioners for their “courage, resilience and skill in deploying to these remote airways and ski fields” to enable evacuation.
The details into evacuated patient’s condition haven’t been made public, but it is said to be unrelated to Covid-19.