Antarctic medical evacuation underway

31 January 2017 - 10:30am

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) is co-ordinating the urgent medevac of a 66-year-old woman from the Netherlands who suffered a suspected stroke on the cruise vessel, MV Ortelius, in Antarctic waters early on Monday morning.

Working closely with the US Antarctic Programme and the vessel’s operator and crew, RCCNZ has coordinated the medevac after receiving a call from the ship located in the Ross Sea, off the Antarctic ice shelf, 3,600 kms south of New Zealand. The ship’s medical staff recommended that the patient be taken to New Zealand for further medical treatment.

The MV Ortelius is transporting the woman, who is in a stable condition, towards McMurdo Station, a United States Antarctic research centre on the south tip of Ross Island located 620 kms from the ship’s original position on Monday.

“The MV Ortelius will attempt to get as close to McMurdo Station as conditions allow for the woman to be transferred. If ice prevents the vessel reaching McMurdo she will be transported by the vessel’s own helicopter and flown to McMurdo Station. The woman will fly on to New Zealand on a regular scheduled flight,” RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer Chris Henshaw said.

“Antarctica is one of the world’s harshest environments and every precaution is being taken by all parties to make sure the medevac is successful.”

“RCCNZ is in touch with the ship, McMurdo Station and government agencies in New Zealand to smooth the way. We expect the medevac will happen around midday on Tuesday New Zealand time with the flight to New Zealand occurring on Wednesday.”

“Weather conditions are suitable for the medevac, however RCCNZ will monitor the situation. Everything’s lining up for a successful operation, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation in the hours ahead,” Chris said.

RCCNZ is responsible for a search and rescue region which covers 30 million square km stretching from Antarctica almost to the equator.

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