A Dutch tourist aboard a cruise ship near Antarctica who suffered a suspected stroke was successfully evacuated Tuesday to a US base on the frozen continent. New Zealand’s Rescue Coordination Centre said the 66-year-old woman was flown by the ship’s helicopter to McMurdo Station and is due fly to New Zealand on Wednesday where she will receive further medical treatment. Chris Henshaw, a senior search and rescue officer, said the inhospitable conditions make medical rescues in Antarctica complex and challenging.
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“It’s a long way from anywhere,” he said. “There’s not a lot of support out there.” He said the woman was cared for by a doctor aboard the cruise ship Ortelius, which sailed 670 kilometers (416 miles) off its normal route to get close to the base. Henshaw said the doctor then accompanied the woman on the 100-kilometer (60-mile) helicopter flight to the base. He said the woman was in a stable condition. Run by Dutch-based Oceanwide Expeditions, the Ortelius is strengthened for icy waters and provides tourists with a more adventurous trip than a typical cruise ship.
The ship, which takes up to 116 passengers as well as 52 staff and crew, promises tourists the chance to see penguins, whales and other Antarctic wildlife up close. Henshaw said the New Zealand rescue agency has helped with four or five medical emergencies in Antarctica over the past dozen years. Last month Buzz Aldrin was evacuated from the South Pole to New Zealand via McMurdo Station after finding himself short of breath and showing signs of altitude sickness.
Aldrin, 87, who was the second man to walk on the moon, spent a week recuperating in a New Zealand hospital before returning to his home in Satellite Beach, Florida.