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Antarctic Rescue Operation Launched

A C-17 Globemaster III taxis off the annual sea ice runway near McMurdo Station, Antarctica Nov. 26, 2007 during Operation Deep Freeze. C-17s fly large cargo loads from Christchurch New Zealand to Antarctica while the LC-130 Hercules, stationed at McMurdo, fly smaller cargo loads to research posts throughout the continent. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo.)

An Australian rescue team has been dispatched to rescue an American expeditioner in distress on Antarctica, according to news reports.

The nature of the emergency has not been disclosed by U.S. authorities.

A specialist medical team and an A319 airbus have been dispatched by the Australian Antarctic Division is flying from Australia to Christchurch, New Zealand, where it will wait for optimal weather and light conditions that will allow them to land safely at the McMurdo Station, an American research base on the frozen continent, according to an AAD statement.

It is winter in Antarctica right now, and planes typically only fly in and out during the austral summer. Winter conditions are typically highly unpredictable and too dangerous to mount rescue missions.

In August 2011, Renee-Nicole Douceur, the manager of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, suffered a stroke and had to remain at the base for several months because officials said it was too dangerous to send a flight to pull her out. A rescue flight eventually landed in October 2011.

Only about 1,000 people overwinter at various countries' stations on Antarctica, significantly less than the nearly 4,000 that come to the continent for research in the summer.

Live Science Staff
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