One of the members of the trades team from the Australian Antarctic Division has fallen seriously ill, prompting a transfer via helicopter from Australia's Davis Station to the Aurora Australis, an icebreaker ship, Sunday.
The Polar Medicine Unit at the Australian Antarctic Division said the transfer was completed smoothly and the man, though in serious condition, is stable. He will be spending his time resting in the icebreaker's medical facility until he gets back to Australia where he will receive treatment in a hospital.
The Aurora Australis was already making its way away from the Davis station after bringing supplies when it was called back last week to fetch the ill man and bring him back to Australia.
Robb Clifton, operations manager at the Davis station, said the transfer was a mammoth effort.
"The team have been working through the weekend in very cold, below minus 10 degrees, and at times snowy conditions. Before the patient was transferred we did several test runs to make sure the operation went as smoothly as possible," he explained.
As of March 23, the Aurora Australis is 120 nautical miles away from Davis. It has to travel another 100 nautical miles before breaking away from all the ice and reaching the open ocean, according to a statement released by the Australian Antarctic Division.
The trip back to Australia is expected to last around two weeks. The icebreaker should be ready to return around April 4, after it reaches the southern city of Hobart after traveling 3,000 miles from the Davis station.
Australian officials have not released any details about the man that was transferred nor was it revealed what made him sick in the first place. All that is known is that the individual arrived at the Davis station in November and was set to spend the southern winter at the Australian base.
He fell ill on Wednesday and was not airlifted to the Aurora Australis until Sunday after the icebreaker returned for him. He was flown to the ship aboard a helicopter under cold and snowy conditions.
The Davis station is located along the coasts of Princess Elizabeth Land.
The Aurora Australis was set to head for its last voyage of the season but the trip to Macquarie Island will have to be delayed. It depends on when the ship will arrive in Australia but given the expected arrival on April 4, the earliest the icebreaker can depart will be April 5.