The Women's Health Resource. On the web since 1997.

Update: Attempt To Rescue Doctor With Breast Cancer At South Pole Is Delayed (dateline October 13, 1999)

LC130 just after landing at the South Pole last summer.


After a twenty-four hour weather delay in New Zealand, the two Air National Guard LC-130 cargo planes attempting to rescue Dr. Jerri Nielsen from the United States Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station in Antarctica have arrived at the McMurdo base on the northern coast of Antarctica. However, the planes must now wait until the temperature at the Amundsen-Scott station rises above minus fifty-eight degrees (Celsius) before conditions will be safe enough to travel the remaining 800 miles to pick up Dr. Nielsen. Experts predict the temperature will make that rise within the next ten days.

The two cargo planes equipped with ski landing gear were delayed one day in New Zealand because of high winds and dangerous swirling snow. Exactly one week ago, the planes left Scotia, New York on a mission to rescue forty-seven year old Dr. Nielsen who has breast cancer. Dr. Nielsen was able to diagnose a malignant tumor in her breast using a digital microscope and video-conferencing equipment air-dropped to her by an Air Force plane in July. She is currently giving herself oral chemotherapy.

Forty-one scientists (ten women, thirty-one men) have been snowed in at the South Pole Station during Antarctica’s severe nine-month winter which lasts from February to October. During the winter, the sun never rises in Antarctica and temperatures average minus seventy-eight degrees (Celsius). Normally, there are no flights in or out of the South Pole from February 15 to about October 25.

The Amundsen-Scott Research Station is at an elevation of 2,900 meters, though the equivalent pressure elevation will vary from 3,300 to 4,000 meters. According to the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA), no landmarks are visible on the 3,000-meter-thick plateau of ice. Antarctica’s winter population is typically twenty-six to twenty-eight people.

During the winter, researchers at the Amundsen-Scott station live and eat at a dome, consisting of three main buildings equipped with science and communications facilities, a kitchen area, living quarters, etc. There is also a balloon-inflation tower to study the weather.

Dr. Nielsen is a medical doctor and the mother of three teenage children. When the National Guard planes arrive at the Amundsen-Scott Research Station to pick up Dr. Nielsen, they will drop off a replacement doctor.  Click here for more information on Dr. Nielsen’s condition and the National Guards rescue .

Additional Resources and References: