NSF PS 01-05 - April 26, 2001
Mary Hanson/Peter West
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Statement by Dr. Rita R. Colwell
Director, National Science Foundation
On South Pole Evacuation and Science
On behalf of the National Science Foundation, I want
to express our congratulations and gratitude to everyone
involved in this historic and unprecedented evacuation
-- the air crew, of course, but also the many other
participants who played critical roles in its successful
outcome. That includes our Chilean and British partners.
This has been a traumatic and disruptive time for Dr.
Shemenski and his family, and I'm glad he's now able
to rejoin them and seek whatever medical care he deems
In carrying out the evacuation, we worked closely with
our contractor (and Dr. Shemenski's employer), Raytheon
Polar Services Corp., to address two priorities: the
health of Dr. Shemenski himself, and the health and
safety of the 49 other people currently supporting
our very important science research at the bottom
of the earth.
The research carried out at the National Science Foundation's
Amundsen Scott South Pole Station has global implications.
For example, the ozone hole was discovered there.
Because of Antarctica's uniquely pristine and isolated
environment and its cold, high dry atmosphere, we
are able to conduct research in astronomy, physics,
biology, chemistry and glaciology that is impossible
anywhere else. That research, which takes place year-round,
is shedding light on key science questions -- from
the origin of the universe to 21st century climate
Like all those who "winter-over" in Antarctica, Dr.
Shemenski passed a rigorous screening process prior
to leaving for Antarctica. We continually review our
screening and selection procedures, and will do so
again, to ensure continuing support of this essential
science so critical to understanding our world.
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