Australian ship makes emergency return to Antarctic station

Australian ship makes emergency return to Antarctic station
File photo of the icebreaker Aurora Australis at the edge of the Totten Glacier, the most rapidly thinning glacier in East Antarctica.

SYDNEY - The icebreaker 'Aurora Australis' was forced to return to Antarctica on Thursday, to evacuate a seriously ill Australian expedition member, just two days after leaving him on Davis Station to spend the winter in Antarctica.

The Australian icebreaker will take almost two days to cover the 400 nautical miles back to Davis Station, because of sea ice conditions.

When it is close enough, a helicopter will ferry the ill man to the ship.

"The current weather forecast for the next 40 hours is poor, so the ship will attempt to get as close to the station as possible," the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) said in a statement.

The AAD said the man was in a serious but stable condition, without giving details of his illness. He was part of a team preparing to spend the winter on the frozen continent.

Once he is aboard the 'Aurora Australis', the ship will take 12 to 14 days to cover the 4,800 nautical miles to the city of Hobart on Australia's southern island state of Tasmania.

The Davis Station crew were not expecting to see another ship for about seven months, as thick ice and extreme weather conditions seal it off from the rest of the world from March, until around November.

Candidates face rigorous medical examinations before being accepted on an Australian Antarctic expedition.

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