11.00AM UPDATE: Medical evacuation at Australian Antarctic station

The patient being transferred to the Aurora Australis
The patient being transferred to the Aurora Australis (Photo: Kym Newbery)
The patient being transferred to the Aurora AustralisThe patient being transferred to the Aurora AustralisThe patient being transferred to the Aurora AustralisDavis station from the Aurora Australis

23rd March 2015

A seriously ill expeditioner has been successfully transferred by helicopter from Australia’s Davis station to the icebreaker Aurora Australis last night.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Polar Medicine Unit said the transfer went smoothly and the man, a member of the trades team, is in a serious but stable condition in the ship’s medical facility.

The Aurora Australis is now once again heading back to Australia after being turned back to Davis last week to retrieve the ill man.

The Division’s Operations Manager, Robb Clifton, said it has been a mammoth effort.

“The team have been working through the weekend in very cold, below minus 10 degrees, and at times snowy conditions,” Mr Clifton said.

“Before the patient was transferred we did several test runs to make sure the operation went as smoothly as possible.”

The ship is now 120 nautical miles out of Davis, and has another 100 nautical miles of ice to navigate before reaching open ocean.

It is expected the voyage back will take about two weeks, with the ship returning around 4 April.

Updates will only be provided if there is any significant change in the situation.


Davis station medical evacuation

Video transcript

Australian Antarctic Division Operations Manager - Robb Clifton

We're very pleased to report that we successfully transferred the ill patient at Davis station onto the Aurora Australis last night and that the ship sailed for Hobart shortly after the operation was complete.

Over the weekend people have been working around the clock to refuel the ship and they’ve been working in quite difficult conditions, often below minus ten degrees and with a fairly constant snowfall.

Before the transfer of the patient we did several test runs to make sure that we could do that transfer safely and efficiently and in the end it was done incredibly well by the folks in Antarctica.

The man who is a member of the station trades team, is now getting really good care and support in the ship’s medical facility, and that includes telemedicine support from specialists and others here in Hobart.

We’ve managed to actually link the patient up by phone to his family to speak to them, so that’s been comforting for them and quite important.

These events can be quite traumatic for our staff in Antarctica. Obviously our Antarctic teams are very much a small family, very close knit, so when someone becomes ill it does have an impact on everyone. I think you can see the results of that impact is how everyone has put in a massive effort in difficult conditions to get their team mate to care.

So I'm pleased to say that this massive operation went very well and the patient is now on the ship and en route to Australia.

[end transcript]