Skip to navigationSkip to content

Photos: A daring rescue mission to the South Pole

A Twin Otter plane picks up two sick workers at the US South Pole science station. Once the patients and the crew rest, they will then fly off Antarctica for medical attention that could not be provided on the remote continent. (National Science Foundation via AP/Robert Schwarz)
By Selina Cheng
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A rescue flight brought back two seriously ill workers from the American Amundsen-Scott South Pole station on Wednesday night (1:40GMT), the AFP reports. The mission battled extreme weather conditions in the midst of the southern hemisphere’s winter: The station recorded yesterday’s temperature ranged from -62 degrees Celsius (-79 degrees Fahrenheit) to -83 degrees (-117 degrees Fahrenheit) including the windchill factor.

According a statement from the National Science Foundation, which operates the station, two rescue planes were launched June 14 from Calgary, Canada. They both stopped in Rothera, a research station on the Antarctic Peninsula. One continued for 1,500 miles to the station, located 250 meters from the southern most place on earth. The mission took place in round-the-clock darkness – the sun won’t rise over the South Pole until September.

The Amundsen-Scott station’s research projects include monitoring long-term carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. It also studies the origin of the universe, dark energy and dark matters by observing a faint light left over from the Big Bang, according to the AFP.

The patients’ identities and medical conditions were not released because of medical privacy. Despite the darkness, the station can be seen on a high-sensitivity live webcam.

A Twin Otter aircraft that can land on skis taxis on the skyway at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. (National Science Foundation via AP/Robert Schwarz)
A worker from the South Pole station arrives at a clinic in Punta Arenas, Chile, on Wednesday, June 22. (AP/Joel Estay)
This photo shows a Twin Otter flies out of the South Pole on a previous medical flight in 2003. (National Science Foundation via AP/Jason Medley)

Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated only one plane operated the rescue mission. Two were involved. 

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.