A team of Australian Antarctic expeditioners will soon start to prepare an ice runway for a medevac at Davis research station.

Later today, weather permitting, a team of five including a field-training officer and plant operators will be flown by helicopter from Davis station to a ski landing area, on the ice plateau behind station.

Australian Antarctic Division Director, Kim Ellis, said helicopters from the nearby Chinese ship the MV Xue Long 2 will be used in the operation.

“This is the first step in a multi-stage medevac involving the Australian, United States and Chinese Antarctic Programs,” Mr Ellis said.

“We are very grateful for the international assistance we are receiving to help get this expeditioner, who has a medical condition, out of Antarctica and back to Australia.”

The construction of the ski landing area near Davis will take 3–5 days.

At the same time a few thousand kilometres away, another team is preparing Australia’s glacial runway at Wilkins Aerodrome, near Casey research station.

“Wilkins is a larger runway where a United States ski-equipped Basler aircraft will land, before flying on to Davis to pick up the patient.”

“Once back at Wilkins, the patient will either be transferred to Australia on the Airbus A319 and flown back to Hobart, or if the ice temperatures are not cold enough for a larger plane to land, return by ship in January.”

“This operation is complex, involving ships, planes and helicopters and aligning weather windows in a notoriously challenging environment.”

“The team in Australia and Antarctica are working round the clock to undertake this medevac in a timely and safe manner.”

Precautions to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to Antarctica are being taken including periods of quarantine, social distancing and deep cleans of the aircraft being used.

The medical condition is not COVID-19 related.

The next update will be posted on the Australian Antarctic Division website www.antarctica.gov.au at 1500 AEST on 21 December 2020.

Media contact: media@antarctica.gov.au