Antarctica Bites Back

The past week has been rather dramatic on the continent, and we’ve been busy playing a small role.

Eight days ago a member of the Norwegian team at Troll, 200 km east of SANAE IV, suffered a fracture to his ankle.  It’s a bad enough injury that he needs to be evacuated to surgical care in South Africa, but this has taken some significant time and preparation.  Early yesterday a rescue flight was launched, which had to be turned back due to the deteriorating weather at Troll.  We’re involved with assisting the communications, flight following and weather forecasting/reporting, but feel gutted that we are unable to help our ‘neighbours’ in any other way.  The massive Jutulstraumen Glacier lies between us and Troll, and although it is technically possible to reach their base in desperation, the risk still outweighs the benefit.  Furthermore, the large tracts of blue ice at Troll form a natural runway for wheeled aircraft, whereas we can only offer a snow skiway.  In the meantime, we can only offer moral support and continue with the forecasts and phone-calls

If the injury at Troll was not enough to cause worry, we have also just heard about a catastrophic fire at the Russian Antarctic Expedition’s Progress Station.  Progress is far from SANAE IV, on the coast of at roughly 70°W.  During the night of 5 October a fire burnt out of control, destroying one building.  Tragically, one member of the 29-person team is still missing, and it is presumed that they were unable to escape before the building collapsed.  Fortunately, the medical facility, food stores and some older accomodation units were spared, and with the assistance of the Chinese team from the nearby Zhongshan base, they are in no immediate further danger.  Having had our own scare with fire earlier this year, our hearts go out to the Russians.

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