A very sick Department of Conservation staff member has been rushed from the Antipodes Islands back to New Zealand.

The New Zealand Defence Force was tasked with picking up the staff member, who had a potentially serious condition, on Saturday.

Offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington, which was on a resupply mission in the Auckland Islands, was re-tasked on Saturday afternoon to evacuate the DOC worker following a request from Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, Navy acting maritime component commander Captain Melissa Ross said.

The Antipodes are about 850km southeast of Bluff and the journey to Bluff from the Antipodes takes up to two days at sea.


The ship carrying the sick worker arrived in Bluff today.

In strong winds and heavy swells, one of Wellington's sea boats was sent to pick up the patient from Hut Cove after the vessel arrived at the Antipodes on Monday morning.

"Although the conditions were pretty rough, we managed to transfer the patient into the sea boat and then on to the ship," Lieutenant Commander Damian Gibbs, the Commanding Officer of Wellington, said.

"Once we had the patient on board we made the best speed towards Bluff. We are glad that we got here earlier than scheduled, so the patient could receive the medical attention needed."

Ross said that, while time was a crucial factor in medical emergencies, the patient could not be transported by helicopter because of the distance, so evacuation by sea was the only option.

John McCarroll, DOC's acting operations manager, said the incident showed how valuable it was to be able to call on the defence force when these types of emergencies arose.

"Having the NZDF support is crucial to our work in the sub-Antarctic and provides us with a level of assurance while we complete these important tasks," McCarroll said.

It was the defence force's second medical evacuation in three weeks.


Before leaving for the Antipodes, on February 13 HMNZS Wellington rescued a 64-year-old woman with a broken leg from Great Barrier Island. St John New Zealand requested help from the NZDF because weather conditions wouldn't allow ambulance staff to transport the patient by helicopter or ferry.