14 Sep 2010

Man evacuated from Antarctica in NZ hospital

10:21 pm on 14 September 2010

An Air Force Orion that made a mercy dash to Antarctica to evacuate a seriously ill man has left the ice for its return journey to New Zealand.

The American man's ailment is not known but his employer at McMurdo Station, Raytheon Polar Services, says he is suffering from an illness.

The plane touched down at 8.40pm on Tuesday after a six-and-a-half hour flight from the Pegasus air field near the United States-run base and New Zealand's Scott Base.

A spokesperson for the Air Force says it was 35 degrees below zero on the ice when the plane landed about lunchtime.

The rescue mission was delayed since Sunday due to a blizzard followed by snow and strong winds that made conditions too dangerous for the Orion to land.

A New Zealand Defence Force medic and two civilian medics accompanied the man on the plane. He is in a serious but stable condition and has been transferred to Christchurch Hospital.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson says the US and New Zealand have a history of co-operation on the ice.

Mr Sanson says the nations have regularly helped each other out of difficult situations in Antarctica over the past 53 years.

The US asked New Zealand to perform the mission because all its Antarctic jets had returned to Seattle, he says.

The US embassy says it is deeply appreciative of New Zealand's efforts to bring the man from the base at this particular time.