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NSF Press Statement


NSF PS 01-04 - April 26, 2001

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 Peter West

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Statement by Dr. Karl Erb
Director, Office of Polar Programs
On the Successful Return of Dr. Ronald Shemenski to Chile

We in the U.S. Antarctic Program are extremely gratified to hear that the aircraft from the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has arrived safely in Punta Arenas, Chile. Having delivered Dr. Betty Carlisle to serve as the physician at the station, it has now brought Dr. Ronald Shemenski back to Chile.

Dr. Shemenski can now obtain a level of medical care that simply is unavailable at the South Pole. With the arrival of a replacement physician, the 49 other people who will be spending the winter there can now be assured of continuing medical care in the coming months.

For the U.S. research community to achieve the scientific advances it so often does in the harsh conditions of Antarctica, every individual in the U.S. Antarctic Program is called on to contribute his talents to the fullest. But no one person alone can insure that success.

I commend the aircrew of Canada's Kenn Borek Air Ltd., who flew the Twin Otters to the Pole through some of the most demanding conditions on earth, on their skill and professionalism.

While they were alone at the controls, they were part of a global team of professionals, including weather forecasters, mechanics, logisticians and dozens of other experts, each of whom contributed to this overall success. Raytheon Polar Services Co., our prime contractor, did an outstanding job of integrating the work of these experts.

As is always true in Antarctica, a continent dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of the scientific programs of many nations, the United States did not stand alone in this evacuation. I am extremely grateful to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) for the assistance and hospitality it provided to the Twin Otter aircrews at Rothera Research Station.

I am also grateful to the Chilean government and to the people of Punta Arenas for their assistance in the staging of the evacuation flights. Chile has long served as the gateway to our station on the Antarctic Peninsula. But on this historic occasion, it served as a gateway to the South Pole.

NSF also thanks the U.S. Air Force and the U.S Department of Interior, for helping to weigh the several options for bringing Dr. Shemenski safely home. I would like to again thank the pilots and aircrews of the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard, and their families, for standing ready to make the pole flight, had they been needed. And, as in any operation in Antarctica, where weather cannot be ignored, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) Center in Charleston, S.C., was instrumental in providing up-to-the minute weather forecasting, that optimized the chances for success.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), meteorologists at the University of Wisconsin, and on the ground at McMurdo and South Pole station as well as British meteorologists also helped accomplish the difficult task of evaluating complex weather patterns during a continental flight.

Finally, I offer my thanks and admiration to the entire staff at the South Pole.

Throughout the time that Dr. Shemenski was ill and then as he awaited transportation home, Mary Hogan a registered nurse, ably assisted in diagnosing his ailment and in supplementing the medical care available at the Pole.

Dr. Carlisle, a highly respected and experienced veteran of several seasons in Antarctica, most recently as the physician at McMurdo Station, now joins the community. Her decision to voluntarily replace Dr. Shemenski exemplifies the best traditions of selflessness and self-sacrifice that characterize the history of Antarctic exploration.


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