Doctor rescued from Antarctica safely in Chile

An ailing US doctor has arrived in the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas after a rescue flight from Antarctica.

Dr Ronald Shemenski, aged 59, was working at the Amundsen-Scott research station at the South Pole, when he was diagnosed with inflammation of the pancreas. He is reported to be in stable condition.

Yesterday, a Canadian crew picked up Dr Shemenski and flew him from the Pole to the British research station at Rothera on an island off Antarctica.

After an overnight rest, they flew across Drake Passage to Punta Arenas this morning, arriving around 8 am (NZ time).

Television showed the bearded Dr. Ronald Shemenski walking unaided down the runway after his plane landed.

"He's had quite an arduous journey, as you might imagine," Tom Yelvington, program manager for Raytheon Polar Services - which organised the evacuation - said from Punta Arenas.

"He's lost some weight since I last saw him in January but at the moment he's feeling well."

"He seems to be in very good spirits. He looked fine walking off the plane and he sounds good. We're trying to get him back home as soon as possible."

Dr Shemenski will now return to the United States on a regular commercial flight.

"He looks ready to go and we'll be on our way tomorrow afternoon to Denver for him to seek additional medical treatment," Yelvington said.

"(Shemenski) was certified as fit to fly by our doctor at the South Pole who replaced him, so we will fly commercial back to the United States."

The flight from Antarctica took five hours, aboard the eight-seat Twin Otter aircraft.

Rescuers decided to rescue Dr Shemenski amid fears that his health could deteriorate after the South Pole became unreachable later in the year.

The rescue pilots had to contend with temperatures around minus 70, high winds, snow and daylight limited to half an hour a day.

Links:

Raytheon Polar Services

National Science Foundation (USA)

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