Search and rescue in the deep south

13 May 2019
boat in water between icebergs
Photo credit: Paul Carroll on Unsplash
Global discussion on search and rescue coordination on the ice

It’s one of the most remote, harshest and hostile environments on the planet, so when things go wrong in Antarctica it is crucial to have the world’s best search and rescue expertise to call in.

It is the first time the COMNAP (Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs) SAR workshop has been held in New Zealand, with more than 60 delegates from different international Antarctic Programmes attending.

The workshop runs for three days on the 14th, 16th and 17th of May, with the first day hosted by Maritime NZ in Wellington. The second and third days will be hosted by Antarctica New Zealand and will be held in Christchurch, where the international COMNAP Headquarters is based.

COMNAP Executive Secretary, Michelle Rogan-Finnemore, says the whole idea of the workshops is to work together and prepare for the worst-case scenario.

“We have to think ahead, what would happen if a big cruise ship has an accident in Antarctica? How do we get 500 passengers to safety in the event of an emergency? Where would we send those passengers once they are rescued? Who would provide medical care?

“The ever-changing conditions in Antarctica mean things can escalate very quickly, and these workshops are all about being prepared to address any emergency,” she says.

Antarctica New Zealand General Manager of Operations, Simon Trotter, says working together with other National Antarctic Programmes is the key to operating in such a challenging environment.

“We are thrilled to host this workshop in New Zealand, COMNAP is the vehicle that helps us connect and collaborate with other countries on the ice who we call on in times of crisis,” he says.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ manager Mike Hill says when a rescue is being conducted in Antarctica support from international colleagues is crucial.

“Our top priority is saving lives and the rescue community forges connections at COMNAP that help rescues go smoothly.”

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