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News Release 17-009

Antarctic medical evacuation underway

A 2015 photograph of NSF's McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

A 2015 photograph of NSF's McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

January 30, 2017

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will assist in the medical evacuation of a 66-year-old woman from the Netherlands who suffered a stroke on the Antarctic cruise vessel, MV Ortelius, in Antarctic waters early on Monday morning (New Zealand time).

The Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand (RCCNZ) is coordinating the medical evacuation with the NSF-managed U.S. Antarctic Program and the vessel operator.

RCCNZ is responsible for a search-and-rescue region, which covers 30 million square kilometers (11.5 million square miles), stretching from Antarctica almost to the equator.

The RCCNZ has been coordinating the medevac after receiving a call from the ship located in the Ross Sea, off the Antarctic ice shelf, 3,600 kilometers (2,236 miles) 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 stable condition, towards McMurdo Station, NSF's logistics hub on the southern tip of Ross Island, located approximately 620 kilometers (385 miles) from the ship's current position.

Ortelius will attempt to get as close to McMurdo Station as the sea ice in McMurdo Sound allows, to transfer the patient.


The patient has been flown to McMurdo Station by helicopter and is awaiting transport to New Zealand.

The patient will then be flown to New Zealand on a regularly scheduled flight on a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft bringing passengers in and out of McMurdo Station for the Antarctic Program.


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7530, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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