31 Jan 2017

Passenger being evacuated from Antarctic cruise ship

11:16 am on 31 January 2017

A Dutch tourist who suffered a suspected stroke on a cruise ship is being evacuated from Antarctica to New Zealand.

New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) said the 66-year-old woman fell ill on the MV Ortelius yesterday morning.

The waters around Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species.

The ship was in the Ross Sea, off the Antarctic ice shelf. Photo: RNZ

The ship was in the Ross Sea, off the Antarctic ice shelf, 3600km south of New Zealand. The ship's medical staff recommended that the patient be taken to New Zealand for further medical treatment.

The Ortelius is sailing towards the US Antarctic research centre McMurdo Station, 620km away, to transfer the woman.

"The MV Ortelius will attempt to get as close to McMurdo Station as conditions allow for the woman to be transferred," said RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer Chris Henshaw."If ice prevents the vessel reaching McMurdo she will be transported by the vessel's own helicopter and flown to McMurdo Station."

From there, she will be flown tomorrow to New Zealand for treatment.

"We expect the medevac will happen around midday on Tuesday New Zealand time, with the flight to New Zealand occurring on Wednesday."

Weather conditions are good, but Antarctica is one of the world's harshest environments, and Mr Henshaw said every precaution was being taken to make sure the evacuation was successful.

The Rescue Coordination Centre is responsible for a search and rescue region which covers 30 million square kilometres stretching from Antarctica almost to the equator.