South Pole Doctor Arrives in Chile

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
April 26, 2001

A U.S. doctor with a life-threatening condition was safely airlifted from the South Pole and arrived Thursday afternoon in Chile.

It was the first flight at the Pole ever attempted in winter, when weather conditions are extremely adverse.

Temperatures were minus 68° Celsius (minus 90° Fahrenheit) when Dr. Ronald Shemenski's flight took off from the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Wednesday.

Nearly 2,200 kilometres (1,000 miles) and 10 hours later, the flight landed at the British Antarctic Survey Research Station in Rothera, Antarctica.

The aircrew and Shemenski, 59, who suffered a gall bladder attack and has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, was allowed to rest before they flew Thursday to Punta Arenas in far southern Chile.

Shemenski was the only doctor among 50 researchers working at the Amundsen-Scott station, and the Twin Otter plane equipped with landing skis that came to pick him up also delivered his replacement, Dr. Betty Carlisle.

The U.S. National Science Foundation—which runs the station, where research is conducted on the ozone layer and the origins of the universe—praised the rescue flight as a milestone, saying that pilots had never before tried to fly to the South Pole or leave after the onset of winter, when there are only two hours of twilight each day.

The next stop for Shemenski will be Denver, Colorado, where he will receive medical treatment.

The two doctors who preceded Shemenski at the South Pole also were flown out after falling ill, although not in such bad weather. Jerri Nielsen discovered a cancerous growth in her breast in October 1999, and her successor, Robert Thompson, injured his spine in a fall.




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