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News Release 17-017

NSF works with New Zealand and Australian authorities to evacuate ailing cruise ship passenger from Antarctica

Australian aircraft to land at NSF's McMurdo Station

The U.S. Antarctic Program logo.

The U.S. Antarctic Program logo. NSF manages the Antarctic Program.

February 27, 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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.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) is working with the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and Oceanwide Expeditions to evacuate an ailing cruise ship passenger from Antarctica.

The patient is a U.S. citizen, sailing aboard the motor vessel Ortelius. NSF is not releasing the patient's personal or medical details. NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, through which it operates three year-round stations on the continent, including McMurdo Station, a logistics hub on Ross Island.

The patient was flown into McMurdo Station by helicopter from the Ortelius Feb. 27, local time. The ship's doctor, after conferring with U.S. Antarctic Program medical staff, determined that the patient required a level of medical care not available on the ship or at the McMurdo clinic.

Because the annual Antarctic research season has ended, there are no U.S. aircraft available at McMurdo to perform the evacuation, nor are there any available in Christchurch, New Zealand, from which flights to the Antarctic Program depart. The only remaining options are planes operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) or the AAD.

An AAD A319 Airbus is preparing for the flight from Hobart, Tasmania to McMurdo with a medical team aboard. A RZNAF Orion aircraft will stand by to provide emergency search-and-rescue, if needed.

McMurdo Station personnel will prepare a nearby ice runway to receive the aircraft.

Earlier this year, NSF assisted in the medical evacuation of a 66-year-old woman from the Netherlands who suffered a stroke on the Ortelius.


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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