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Medicine Science

Stroke Victim Stranded At South Pole Base 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-saw-this-episode-of-house dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Renee-Nicole Douceur, the winter manager at the Amundsen-Scott research station at the South Pole, was sitting at her desk on August 27 when she suffered a stroke. 'I looked at the screen and was like, "Oh my God, half the screen is missing."' But both the National Science Foundation and contractor Raytheon say it would be too dangerous to send a rescue plane to the South Pole now, since Douceur's condition is not life-threatening. Douceur's niece Sydney Raines has set up a Web site that urges people to call officials at Raytheon and the National Science Foundation. However, temperatures must be higher than -50 degrees F for most planes to land at Amundsen-Scott or the fuel will turn to jelly. While that threshold has been crossed at the South Pole recently, the temperature still regularly dips to 70 degrees below zero. 'It's like no other airfield in the U.S.,' says Ronnie Smith, a former Air Force navigator who has flown there about 300 times. A pilot landing a plane there in winter, when it is dark 24 hours a day, would be flying blind 'because you can't install lights under the ice.' The most famous instance of a person being airlifted from the South Pole for medical reasons was that involving Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, a doctor who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer. Using only ice and a local anesthetic, she performed her own biopsy with the help of a resident welder. When she departed on October 16, 1999, it was the earliest in the Antarctic spring that a plane had taken off."
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Stroke Victim Stranded At South Pole Base

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  • Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:28AM (#37676088)

    McChord Air Force Base has a couple of C-17s in Christchurch *right now* involved in Operation Deep Freeze. Of course, the jets keep the engines running while cargo goes off and on, and as a point of fact, we are now actually doing NVG landings and take-offs.

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @04:29AM (#37676666)

      The problem is that the C-17's have wheels. Unless things have changed recently, Amundsen only has a snow field, not an ice runway like McMurdo. Landing anything other than a twin-otter or LC-130 at Amundsen probably wouldn't be classified as a "landing" and definitely would be a one-way trip (note the L before the C-130 - it's not a normal Herky-bird).

      Another issue is that the LC-130 doesn't have the legs to make CHC-Amundsen-CHC non-stop. Therefore, it has to land at McMurdo at least once. That means that the weather has to be agreeable to allow the mission to happen (putting aside the issues with fuel jelling and gasket failure at the Amundsen temperatures). In early October, some days the weather at McMurdo is good, but it's not the rule. Nasty storms this time of year.

      While the situation is quite sad, most of the damage in a stroke occurs in the first hour, which has long sense passed. Rehab is the only treatment at this point. Another stroke may happen, and medical intervention could reduce that chance, but a chance is an awfully big dice-roll that involves a full flight-crew.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

        by quenda (644621) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @04:57AM (#37676768)

        Also, the south pole base at 2,835 meters elevation. McMurdo is a comparatively balmy 24m and 78degrees latitude.

      • A C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, performed the first known after-dark landing in Antarctica using night vision goggles on September 11, 2008.

        http://photolibrary.usap.gov/Portscripts/PortWeb.dll?query&field1=Filename&op1=matches&value=09122008_NVG_C17.JPG&catalog=Antarctica&template=USAPgovMidThumbs [usap.gov]

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        The Air Force could use a KC-10 to refuel the LC-130 in flight but a night time inflight refueling in the antarctic winter... Well lets just say that has a good risk factor. Aka an ever bigger dice-roll.
        If the woman's life was at risk am will to bet that the crew would roll those dice but it isn't life threatening right now and frankly this mission would be.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Deep Penguin (73203) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @10:46AM (#37679290) Homepage Journal

        The problem is that the C-17's have wheels. Unless things have changed recently, Amundsen only has a snow field, not an ice runway like McMurdo. Landing anything other than a twin-otter or LC-130...

        Another issue is that the LC-130 doesn't have the legs to make CHC-Amundsen-CHC non-stop. Therefore, it has to land at McMurdo at least once. That means that the weather has to be agreeable to allow the mission to happen (putting aside the issues with fuel jelling and gasket failure at the Amundsen temperatures). In early October, some days the weather at McMurdo is good, but it's not the rule. Nasty storms this time of year.

        Pole still has a packed-snow skifield. No jets, no tires. Skis only. That means an LC-130 or Twin Otter (as you mention) or a Basler BT-67 (upgraded and stretched DC-3). Of the three, only the LC-130 is pressurized, and, yes, Hercs have a 9-10-hour flight range, so it uses one load of fuel to get from CHC to McMurdo (9.5 hrs), then another to get from McMurdo to Pole and back to McMurdo (6-7 hrs). They'd use a C-17 for the McMurdo-to-CHC return this time of year - it's faster and roomier for all involved (faster matters double because you have to have good weather at the flight endpoints throughout the flight in case you have to abort-to-departure, or "boomerang"). There's also the requirement for an additional plane on standby in case it has to be sent out for Search-and-Rescue if the first plane goes down. They never operate only one LC-130 at a time. There have to be two or perhaps three present and functional to launch the primary mission.

        The issue with temps below -50C is more about seals and gaskets than gelled fuel. They got a waiver in 2004 to open the station with LC-130s at -57C. I watched as one of the planes taxied back from an aborted take-off and spent 3 hours in the pit cycling its engines. They did eventually take off and arrive at McMurdo successfully, but after that incident, the Air Guard became unwilling to operate the planes when the ground temps at Pole were below -50C (and in 2005, I watched the third station-opening flight turn back because it got too cold between #2 and #3. It was 6 days and two more attempts before it returned). In 2006, station opening was delayed 10 days due to weather (visibility or temps - ISTR it varied from day to day).

  • Ehmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:29AM (#37676104)

    Not only is the condition not life threatening at the moment, the rescue wouldn't achieve much since by the time the victim could be transported out of there, any damage would've been done already. Not to mention that putting her into an unpressurized plane (if it's too cold for the C130) could be dangerous by itself.

    • Re:Ehmm (Score:4, Funny)

      by Sarten-X (1102295) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:33AM (#37676140) Homepage

      This is Slashdot. We will devise a brilliant solution, utilizing the latest technology from around the world, in a complex yet elegant manner. Once this solution is established, no faults will be acknowledged, for we are faultless. The next time such a situation arises, we will angrily wonder why our solution was ignored by those evil profit-oriented corporations.

      This is Slashdot. Practicality isn't very welcome here.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        We will devise a brilliant solution, utilizing the latest technology from around the world, in a complex yet elegant manner.

        Helicopter.... Nothing fancy, just something with proper blade heaters, for obvious reasons. :-)

        • I believe not. I'm not sure of the details, but I've read that helicopters can't be used at the South Pole Station. Something about the altitude and temperature making the air too thin for the blades to get lift or something. I might be remembering wrong, but you have to remember that except for the International Space Station these are literally the worst conditions that any humans live in anywhere. By comparison Inuits and Sherpas live in lovely safe climates. Very few "normal" solutions work.

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        Or, we could just call House. He's out of prison, you know.
      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        Don't you mean ... This! Is! Slashdot! *kick*

    • Even a pressurized plane could be dangerous for someone recovering from a stroke as they usually keep cabin pressure equivalent to 10,000 to 12,000 feet.

      • Some people will start to exhibit altitude sickness even at 8,000 feet.

      • by snowgirl (978879)

        Apparently, according to her own words, Renee is already acclimated at about 10,000 feet. Wikipedia confirms that Amundsen-Scott station is at an altitude of 9,301 feet.

        • by Tsingi (870990)

          Apparently, according to her own words, Renee is already acclimated at about 10,000 feet.

          Or not, she had a stroke.

      • Air Pressure ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Alan R Light (1277886) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @07:58AM (#37677568)

        Renee is at the South Pole, at an elevation of 9300 feet - however, because the atmosphere at the poles is thinner than at the equator, air pressure at South Pole is roughly equivalent to 10,500 feet.

        However, this is a good point. It is one of the reasons why Renee requested a medical attendant on her evacuation flight, as well as a second medical opinion about her condition. Both requests were at first denied, but fortunately this publicity campaign has succeeded in getting both these requests granted.

        As always with news stories, some of the most relevant details were omitted.

        (I wintered with Renee at McMurdo Station in 2009, and have been in contact with her regarding her current circumstances.)

    • Re:Ehmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vectormatic (1759674) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @06:52AM (#37677260)

      This sob-story was posted on redit a few weeks back, it is nice that her family is trying to get that stroke victim back, but the truth is that flying out to the south pole isnt exactly easy, and once a stroke victim is stabilized, there isnt much to do after the first 24 hours.

      I'd be more upset if they risked a three man flight crew in dangerous conditions then if this woman has to wait a few more months

    • other factors (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alan R Light (1277886) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @07:51AM (#37677528)

      I know Renee personally. In fact, I submitted this story to Slashdot in late September, but it didn't get posted.

      There are other factors involved. Renee is aware of the problems with an evacuation this time of year, but was more concerned about being prevented from getting a second medical opinion and being denied a medical attendant on the evacuation flight. She sought publicity upon the advice of her lawyer, who felt this was the only way to pressure the company to do the right thing - and the publicity campaign has worked. Renee is now getting a second medical opinion and will be getting a medical attendant on her evacuation flight.

      Polar aviation technology has advanced considerably since 1999, and a Twin Otter can safely land at considerably lower temperatures than an LC-130. You may note that Renee did not ask for an evacuation in August or most of September - merely that a plane be put on standby for an evacuation as soon as possible in October. She didn't earn her Engineering degree or get to be Winter Site Manager by being stupid. There was also concern that the denial of her reasonable request for a second medical opinion, etc., might be retaliation related to some issues with anonymous whistleblowers which she handled.

      It should also be noted that some types of stroke can get progressively worse, and that she is currently at a high altitude with low oxygen which might exacerbate the damage. I understand the skepticism, but like I say - she is not stupid.

      More information here, though note that this page was established by family members, not Renee herself:

      http://www.facebook.com/pages/Evacuate-Renee-Nicole-Douceur-from-Antarctica-Immediately/139354572829055 [facebook.com]

      • Re:other factors (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @09:44AM (#37678566)

        Having been the guy who's made the call to not fly a rescue mission, I sympathise. However, killing 3 people (or 7 in my case) to potentially save 1 person is a hell of a call to make. My personal risk tolerance is about E-2. However, when the risk is killing the entire crew, it drops, precipitously. Not only do you risk killing the crew, but you also lose capacity to support other rescue missions. Killing a crew to rescue someone who's stable is not a good idea. I've burried too many friends for those types of missions.

        As for the medical attendant, well, again, consider the risk. That's a 3rd person to kill on the flight, and substantially limits the fuel I can carry, the choice of aircraft I have, and makes the high altitude takeoff more dangerous, particularly with a light aircraft.

      • The standard treatment for stroke includes a clot-busting drug such as TPA if you can get it to the patient in the first few hours after the stroke. While this won't help her, they should keep a stockpile of it around for the next time somebody gets a stroke.

        It's a bit more complicated than that - it helps some kinds of strokes and hurts others, so you need to consult a neurologist about it; I don't know if they'd also need to have CAT scan or equivalent medical hardware to help diagnosis.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:50PM (#37682088)

          No, they shouldn't. tPA is finicky stuff. If its administered during the first three hours of an ischemic stroke it can help, but after that it's more likely to hurt, and if you give it for a hemorrhagic stroke it can easily kill. The decision to give tPA is based a lot on experience and absolutely requires a CT scan, someone trained to obtain that scan and someone trained to interpret both the scan and the patient. You could potentially do the interpretation remotely but I don't think anyone has shown that yet (we were working on it) and you'd still need a CT scanner, which is probably not reasonably for such a small base.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      You could put her in an inflatable hyperbaric chamber.

      http://www.healingdives.com/1994.html [healingdives.com]

  • Could you install lights *over* the ice though? Some sort of high-power laser projector on a pole or mounted on a building capable of projecting an image of the landing lights onto the snow.
    • Maybe but teh reality is that you would be risking lives to get one person home early and when they got home they would still be a stroke patient. Its hard for some people but some times in an emergency the best thing to do is nothing and the best place to be is where you are. If you don't like that don't go to Antarctica. Its just barely spring here in Melbourne (and in the rest of the southern hemisphere). The sun is creeping south slowly.

      • I wasn't taking about now. It'd take months to design, build, install and test such a device. If it works though, it'd be a useful thing to have next emergency.
        • They have landed a plane at South Pole in the darkness before.

          http://www.polarconservation.org/education/antarctic-evacuations/2001-doctor-evacuated-from-the-south-pole

          There is much more to this story than what has been released in the press. Renee was denied a second medical opinion and denied her request for a medical attendant on her evacuation flight. There are also questions of official retaliation for doing her job properly. But those things don't get publicity - and the publicity has helped he

          • by Tuidjy (321055)

            Oh joy. Publicity has increased the chances that yet another person's life will be risked on the evacuation flight, which will be undertaken earlier than originally planned.

            I hope the crew and the medical attendant make it safely back... and the stroke victim, of course. But if they all die in the premature rescue flight, I hope that one of their relatives gets away with arranging the murder of whoever set up the publicity site. And yeah, I am deliberately not posting anonymously, fucking karma be damned.

        • by mcmonkey (96054)

          I wasn't taking about now. It'd take months to design, build, install and test such a device.

          Or one montage. Cue "Eye of the Tiger"

    • While that's an idea for the future, that won't help right now - seeing as I doubt any of that just happens to be handy...

    • You're talking about trying to mark the runway with reflected light? That is you are going to shine a laser light on the ice and the reflection off will somehow be bright enough to see at a distance?

      I doubt that would work. The normal situation has lights which directly emit light.

    • Re:Lighting. (Score:5, Informative)

      by djupdal (629381) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @04:27AM (#37676656) Homepage

      I spent one year as the leader of the Norwegian Antarctic research station (Troll).

      We did not have winter flights either, but we had plans for doing it.

      We had a set of airport lights we could place along the runway, complete with PAPI lights to guide incoming planes. These were not permanently mounted, but would only require a couple of hours to get in place. I find it odd that Amundsen-Scott does not have something similar.

      The real problem is weather, a little bit of wind, and the lights disappear in snow drift. Another problem is that the runway must be cleared of snow, which is a considerable amount of work that is also dependent on the weather.

      • And now we know how The Thing got out!
      • by maeka (518272)

        How much accumulation does the "runway" see in a year? I would think a glideslope would be easy to install, and could be adjusted up as the ice/snow increases. I would also think a localizer would be possible as well. But, then again, I'm not sure my brain can fathom what a -70 environment is like.
         

      • South Pole does have plans for winter evacuations, and handled an evacuation on 25 April 2001. A Twin Otter could have probably landed at Pole in September.

        Whether an evacuation is a good idea or not is another question, and I understand the reluctance to do so - but frankly, there were other factors involved. Renee was being denied a second medical opinion and a medical attendant for her evacuation, possibly for reasons of internal company politics. Fortunately, this publicity has obtained both these

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        We had a set of airport lights we could place along the runway, complete with PAPI lights to guide incoming planes. These were not permanently mounted, but would only require a couple of hours to get in place. I find it odd that Amundsen-Scott does not have something similar.

        I went to a job interview with a company that manufactures such systems. [tacticallighting.com] I was told that each of the antarctic stations had one of their systems.

      • Re:Lighting. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Deep Penguin (73203) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @10:33AM (#37679130) Homepage Journal

        I've wintered at Pole multiple times. It's a very different place than Troll or McMurdo. The coldest coastal temps are like a warm October or February day at Pole. It's not practical to deploy electric cables in those temps (80F to -100F late in the winter and into sunrise). For airdrops (and the April, 2001, medevac via Twin Otter), they use "burn barrels" to mark out the skiway.

        Wind and visibility is indeed an important factor, though unlike a hard-surface runway, you don't clear the snow off of the skiway so much as grade and shape the snow pack so the skis don't sink in. They have limited equipment and limited qualified personnel in the winter (usually 1-3 people) and it takes weeks to take the skiway from mid-winter conditions to ready-for-station-opening condition, and one storm can demolish a week's work.

        I'm not there this year and can't comment on specific issues with Renee's situation. Once the Winter is over. I'm sure we'll hear more about how things got to this point, but right now, from 10,000 miles away, our speculation here can't possibly be based on enough facts to be remotely viable.

  • by WegianWarrior (649800) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:34AM (#37676144) Journal

    When you sign up for a tour of duty to a place like that, you also sign a number of waivers and documents stating that you are aware that there is no bailing out early, and no chance of a rescue flight in winter. I'm sure it must suck to try to recover from a stroke while at the South Pole, but there is no reason to risk the life of others just to get her out - even less now that she is actually recovering.

    At least actual transport is fast once it's safe to send it these days; Amundsen and his team spend 99 days going from the coast to the south pole and back, Scott and his team was on the move for about 150 days before succumbing to hunger and cold (in reality succumbing to bad planning and lack of preparation).

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:39AM (#37676172) Homepage Journal

      My uncle applied for work in Antarctica. They gave him really rigorous medical tests and found a tumor. He is alive now (20 years later) because he wanted to be a diesel mechanic in Antarctica.

  • ... will be that the criteria for residing at the South Pole will be tightened to not include people at risk for common age related conditions -- ie. people over 40 or so. Granted, a stroke can occur at any age, but strokes predominantly occur in older individuals. This means that future qualified people will denied such opportunities because one person couldn't accept the concequences of risks that common sense would dictate are associated with living at such a remote outpost.

  • by Anonymous Freak (16973) <prius.driver@noSpAm.mac.com> on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:53AM (#37676262) Journal

    She had the stroke a month and a half ago. The next scheduled flight is one week away. Maybe this would have been newsworthy on September 10th, but at this point, if she's functional, she can last another week.

    Honestly, how bad would she (and her family back home) feel if they send a "rescue flight" tomorrow, and it crashes on attempted landing, killing the crew? Or how bad would her family feel if it landed successfully, managed to take off again, but then the engines die halfway to the coast due to jelled fuel, killing the crew AND her?

    • > She had the stroke a month and a half ago. The next scheduled flight is one week away.
      > Maybe this would have been newsworthy on September 10th, but at this point, if she's functional, she can last another week.

      I believe her beef at this point was Raytheon's original refusal to send a medical technician on that flight, not the date of the flight itself. She didn't ask for an immediate rescue flight, only one at the first practical opportunity. Remember, the first scheduled flight was scheduled month

      • I believe her beef at this point was Raytheon's original refusal to send a medical technician on that flight, not the date of the flight itself

        What would be the point? Again, these flights are dangerous. Is her condition sufficiently unstable or life threatening that an extra 12 hours in flight without a medical tech would be a problem? Or is it better to not have an extra body on the plane?

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      Honestly, how bad would she (and her family back home) feel if they send a "rescue flight" tomorrow, and it crashes on attempted landing, killing the crew? Or how bad would her family feel if it landed successfully, managed to take off again, but then the engines die halfway to the coast due to jelled fuel, killing the crew AND her?

      They would feel probably the same way a stranded hiker would feel if the search and rescue team had an unfortunate accident looking for them. Or a homeowner would feel for a fir

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        The difference is that she is in stable condition and not dying. All the scenarios you mentioned would cause death if nothing was done. A better example would be a SAR team swimming a swollen river to "rescue" a person standing on the other side instead of waiting a couple of days till the water calmed down. No immediate danger to the victim and no danger to the rescuer if they wait.

  • by lucm (889690)

    This reminds me of Ingrid Betancourt; she was warned not to go in the rebel area because she could get kidnapped. She still went to the rebel area and got kidnapped. And we are supposed to feel sorry for her.

  • Please DON'T call (Score:5, Informative)

    by subreality (157447) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:08AM (#37676330)

    First, email the people on this list and tell them the money saved denying Renee a Medevac flight will not be worth the bad press. Ask them to do the right thing.

    Please no. This really isn't about saving money. If that's all it was, they'd do the flight just to head off the bad PR.

    Sending a flight to the south pole in adverse conditions costs lives. Figuring a 1 in 15 chance of a crash per round trip and a flight crew of 3, that's 0.2 lives you're paying to airlift her out of there.

    That's an acceptable risk for someone who will die unless they're rescued, but that's not the case: she had a stroke; the damage is done. They probably have her on blood thinners now and she's off-duty and taking it easy, which is basically all that they can do for her in a proper hospital to prevent a recurrence. Any rehab therapy she needs can be adequately done by videoconference until they can get a flight down there.

    • What is the very first thing you do in a first aid scenario? You see someone down you stop and assess the situation. You never proceed to help a victim unless its safe to do so or you want to earn a stupidity ..er.. I mean bravery medal.

      You go in all mucho and heroic you stand a chance of increasing the number of casualties. No only does that put your stupid arse in a sling, but it also limits the amount of help that will be available for the original casualty when the smarter rescue team arrives.

      Sydney Rai

      • other factors (Score:5, Informative)

        by Alan R Light (1277886) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @08:22AM (#37677724)
        As I've been saying elsewhere, there were other factors involved. Renee was being denied a second medical opinion, and denied a medical attendant on her evacuation flight. Thanks to the publicity, this has now been rectified. Naturally, the relevant facts never make the news. It ain't sexy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by subreality (157447)

          Source? None of that is on the petition [whitehouse.gov]:

          Help Renee-Nicole Douceur get evaculated from Antarctica now! Raytheon and the NSF do not think a stroke is an emergency

          My mother/aunt, Renee Douceur, is the winter site manager at the South Pole Station run by Raytheon and the National Science Foundation. She suffered a stroke on August 27th and the on-site doctors requested for her immediate medical emergency evacuation to get her to proper medical care and prevent further injury to her, The decision makers are disregarding the on-site doctors’ request for Renee’s immediate need for emergency evacuation. Instead they are treating her stroke as a non-emergency, keeping her at the South Pole until late October or early November. Renee’s attorney has advised her to go public because he is being stonewalled by Raytheon and the NSF to get her out ASAP for proper medical diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation (if she survives the trip out) Let's get her home!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by thegarbz (1787294)

          Naturally, the relevant facts never make the news. It ain't sexy.

          Nope, because quite frankly who cares about the detail of a medical attendant when the primary purpose and single largest stupidity is petitioning to make the situation worse. She wants to petition about a medical attendant then more power to her, I'd be happy to sign that. But she's not.

          People are horrendously irrational when they become passionate about something. Unfortunately that's not her fault, it's human nature. I have a wonderful video demonstrating this showing a welder in a confined space and a h

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:28AM (#37676398) Journal

    I'm sure(?) that the people at NASA are looking at this and thinking:

    "What would this be like if this happened in deep space, with no possibility of rescue or even airdropped (space dropped?) supplies?"

    Is there an age restriction on astronauts (to reduce the likelihood of diseases which become more prevalent with age?). Are there any policies about pushing people out of the airlock if they can't be helped (now that would be something interesting to see on wikileaks).

    This looks like a bad situation for everyone involved.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It's actually good news for NASA. Understanding how to anticipate and cope with these sorts of events is going to be important in interplanetary exploration, and the Antarctic outpost is one of the few opportunities they have to learn from similar situations in a living, breathing research environment instead of a laboratory model.

    • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@NoSpaM.gdargaud.net> on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @06:29AM (#37677176) Homepage

      "What would this be like if this happened in deep space, with no possibility of rescue or even airdropped (space dropped?) supplies?"
      Is there an age restriction on astronauts

      That's probably the root issue. As someone who has worked for the french, italian and (indirectly) US antarctic [gdargaud.net] programs, and also applied for astronaut, I can say that the tests are very different in the different projects, and weed out a lot more applicants on the astronaut side (no surprise here). At the same time, you can't ask for someone who applies to a mechanics or cook position in Antarctica to be as fit as an athlete. Also the american polar program must follow non-discriminatory guidelines when hiring, meaning there'll be be a lot of obese or other borderline medical issues. It's no surprise that most of the medical problems I've heard about were on american stations. But they also employ a lot more people, so read this with a grain of salt. After all, during my first winterover, the guy who became insane and had to be restrained was the doctor himself... Fun times.

      • Isn't it always the doctor that goes insane?

        Well, that's the stereotype, anyway. (Among Antarctic winterovers, that is.)

        • by dargaud (518470)
          Well, step into the guy's shoes for a sec: while everybody is busy at his job, he has nothing to do all day. They when the shit hits the fan (somebody gets hurt) he's on the front line with nobody to help him. If he fucks up, somebody dies. Kind of raises the tension, heh ?
    • by dbIII (701233)

      there an age restriction on astronauts

      No, just a nationality restriction which is relaxed if you give the Russians or Chinese enough money. The last shuttle has flown guys. The current trained astronauts had better hope there won't be an age restriction in a couple of decades or later if manned missions are run again by NASA.
      Also they took John Glenn up at age 77 just to see what would happen, so definitely no hard age restrictions, but of course it's all out of NASA's hands now.

  • How does she know if it was really a stroke? Only by symptoms??? It could be many other diseases from optic neuritis, multiple sclreosis onset... or glaucoma. Did she have a CAT or MRI scan to differentiate? Also if she had stroke and it just affected her vision she may consider herself as very lucky, without thrombolytic therapy. She was also aware that going to South Pole is not like hitchiking in the mountains, no 911 calls. Anyway I wish her well and hope she will recover.
  • panic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:45AM (#37676464) Homepage Journal

    Raines has set up a Web site that urges people to call officials at Raytheon and the National Science Foundation.

    With the purpose of what? Endangering more lives? This isn't a rational plea for help, it's irrational panic.

    • by owlstead (636356)

      Nah, for the reason of trying to do anything about the situation, even if it defies logic. People can not sit on their hands when such a situation arives. It's not so much panic as the very strong drive to do something. It's probably one of the biggest reasons why many doctors are against euthenasia. They get confronted with the fact that they are powerless against some things.

      Suppressing the feeling you've got to do something does not make you a survivor, and they are therefore rather stuck in our gene poo

  • -50F is about -45C.

    • by Shinobi (19308)

      So Antarctica is having a rather mild winter then.... -45 celsius is what we had for a while during Arctic Survival courses I took in the military, up in northern Lappland.

      • by Shinobi (19308)

        That should have said "Antarctica's having a mild winter by Antarctica standards"

  • It would be easy to mod a plane to use Hydrogen. real issue is the fluids in the hydraulic systems.

    Still You think someone would take up the challenge to redesign a plain for the Antarctic environment. A lot of issues to overcome but certainly not impossible.

    sounds like an ideal xprize project

    • by dargaud (518470)

      Still You think someone would take up the challenge to redesign a plane for the Antarctic environment.

      First it would have to be several, not one. Several different planes are used for different things: flying from NZ/OZ/south Africa/South America to Antarctica, landing on snow/ice/graded pebbles, ferrying cargo or people. Not the same planes at all. For instance the US sells C130 to other nations, but they refuse to sell the ski sleds that allow them to land on snow...

      • The ISS has a three person escape pod, a Soyuz capsule that is kept there at all times. (I don't know if they rotate them, but I imagine they do)
        The Antarctic bases wouldn't need every kind of plane to be available, just one that could get several people out during really bad weather. A small plane in a heated hanger would fit the bill. Just enough to get to another air strip where regular planes can get to. It could be rotated out every summer.
        • by dargaud (518470)
          Conceptually it's certainly possible to design something like that, but in practice... Just for those who complain that the budget of Nasa is too small, the budget of polar expeditions is orders of magnitude smaller. Hell, the french/italian can't even afford their own plane: they rent them by the day from the americans (big C130 and similar for inter-continental flights) or the canadians (small twin-otters for station to station flights). I'll let you reach conclusions as to the amount of money for such a
  • Green and Red Flares for a temporary runway, heating coils around the tanks to keep temps around -10.

    Simple, easy, cheap. Get to it, Raytheon. If your best couldn't think of this solution in less than 5 minutes, quit sending people there, as you are obviously NOT prepared to be responsible.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      And if the flares blow away or are buried, or there's a leak and the fuel tanks explode, who's going to take responsibility? If the plane does get stranded leaves the base is inaccessible until it's pushed off the runway, what then?

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Green and Red Flares for a temporary runway

      which would be covered or moved by the wind and snow before that last one was put down.

      heating coils around the tanks to keep temps around -10

      Which if put on the outside of the wings ruin the airfoil and cause the aircraft not to fly. Not to mention the need for a source of heat to supply the coils. Plus the fact that the hydraulic oil for the flight controls would also jell.

      The solution is not "Simple, easy, cheap". There is a lot more engineering in making an aircraft flyable to those temperatures than a few heating coils.

  • I wonder why the south pole station doesn't make more use of robotic transport such as the Tubleweed Rover [nasa.gov], ballistic transport pods or steerable balloons to transport supplies rather than depending on people. The ISS relies on robotic "progress" supply ships at least as much as it relies on human space flights. If we can do this in space, why not on earth?
  • This kind of thing is what the V22 Osprey [wikipedia.org] was made for. It should have the range to get to the south pole, and it should be able to land vertically, get the person on board in 30 seconds, and get the hell out of there.

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      This kind of thing is what the V22 Osprey [wikipedia.org] was made for. It should have the range to get to the south pole, and it should be able to land vertically, get the person on board in 30 seconds, and get the hell out of there.

      If you actually research this, you will find that the Osprey does not, in fact, have sufficient range to get to the Amundsen-Scott research station without refueling. It may also need to be weatherized to withstand the cold temperatures.

  • And to think that I gave up the opportunity to spend a year in Antarctica as a research assistant in my youth... Don't mind "normal" cold, but that was a bit more than I was willing to submit to. In any case, these people are to be admired for their persistence in following their dream.

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