Tough air rescue launched for ailing Arctic doctor
October 7, 1999
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, California (CNN) -- A rescue mission was under way Thursday to evacuate a doctor who has been treating herself for a lump on her breast while on duty at the South Pole.
Two LC-130 cargo planes left Travis Air Force Base on Thursday morning en route to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for the long trip to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, then on to Amundsen-Scott Research Station, where Jerri Nielsen is the base's only doctor.
Nielsen, 47, first noticed the lump in July, at which time Air Force flights dropped medical supplies for her to treat herself. Now officials say it's time for her to leave and undergo more orthodox treatment.
The journey to get her is no easy one, according to Brig. Gen. Archie Berberian, chief of staff of the 109th Air National Guard in Scotia, New York, where the flights originated.
"The trip from McMurdo to the South Pole is difficult at any time of the year," said Berberian.
Time of year makes tough flight more difficult
"It's more difficult this time of the year because the temperatures are below what our normal operating conditions are and also the wind can be very strong, and there's diminished sunlight," Berberian told CNN.
The flights are scheduled to leave Hawaii Friday morning for the island of Pago Pago, from there Saturday morning for Christchurch, New Zealand, and from there Sunday morning for McMurdo, where they will arrive later in the day.
A decision will then be made, based on the weather, on continuing the mission immediately or waiting.
If approved, one plane could fly as early as Monday to Admundsen-Scott. If there are problems with that flight, the second plane will serve as a backup.
If weather interferes, the mission could be delayed, perhaps for days. The crew will be accompanied by a doctor to replace Nielsen, who was scheduled to end her stint at the base in November.
Scientists say Antarctic lake worth a look-see
Antarctica's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
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