Evacuated Antarctic expeditioner returns to Hobart

The ill expeditioner is transferred from the Aurora Australis
The ill expeditioner is transferred from the Aurora Australis (Photo: Jess Fitzpatrick)
The expeditioner is lowered to the wharfThe patient is transferred into the ambulanceThe expeditioner is transferred from the helicopter to the Aurora Australis after being flown from Davis stationSnowy Davis station during the evacuation of the patient

3rd April 2015

A seriously ill Antarctic expeditioner has today returned to Hobart aboard Australia’s icebreaker, Aurora Australis.

The ship docked about seven this morning, two weeks after evacuating the man from Australia’s Davis station.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jeff Ayton, said the man remains in a serious but stable condition and has been transferred to the Royal Hobart Hospital by ambulance.

“He will require ongoing medical treatment but we are very pleased he has travelled well over the past couple of weeks and his condition has not deteriorated.”

The patient has received 24 hour care since becoming sick more than two weeks ago.

“I’d like to thank all those people who have been involved in looking after the expeditioner, from the station and ship Doctor, to the small team of lay surgical assistants and the Polar Medicine Unit back here in Hobart – they have been truly amazing.

“Our telemedicine facilities also provided critical support, connecting experts back in Australia with the patient and doctor who was initially nearly 5000 kilometres away.”

“On the return journey home, across the inhospitable Southern Ocean, caring for the man was a challenge as the ship was a constant moving platform. All have done a great job in keeping him as safe and comfortable as possible.”

The expeditioner was a member of the station’s trades team and due to spend the winter in Antarctica when he became ill.

Voyage Leader, Andy Cianchi, said when the Aurora Australis turned back to Davis for the medical evacuation it was a huge logistical effort to get the transfer done in a small weather window.

“The weather was snowing lightly and around minus 10 degrees but we were able to pick a window between snow showers to get the patient into the helicopter and onto the ship,” Mr Cianchi said.

“Once we had the patient aboard it took us a couple of days to slowly break through the sea ice near Davis before finally making it out into the open Southern Ocean.

“The passage back was quite rough at times with wind gusts up to 60 knots, and a 6–7m swell causing the vessel to roll heavily,” he said.

The Aurora Australis left Hobart at the end of January to resupply Mawson and retrieve expeditioners from Davis station, as well as undertake some important marine science work.

The ship will now be restocked and refuelled for the last voyage of the season to Macquarie Island on Monday.