Patient Rescued From Antarctic Research Station

PHOTO: File photo of McMurdo Station on Ross Island, Antarctica, taken from Observation Hill, Nov. 2006.
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A medical team has arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, after departing the U.S. McMurdo Station in Antarctica where it rescued a U.S. expedition member who suffered a medical emergency.

The patient, who for privacy issues has not been identified, landed this morning in New Zealand. The patient was to be transported to a local hospital there, according to a spokesman from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Australian Antarctic Division assisted in the rescue and provided its A319 Airbus and a medical team to help, the Australian government division said in a statement.

The rescue team had been waiting for a break in the weather to make the risky trip to the Antarctica research station. The team's plane left Christchurch Wednesday evening en route to McMurdo Station, according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The NSF coordinated the operation, but remained mum on most of the details.

NSF spokeswoman Debbie Wing told ABC News that privacy issues prevent the foundation from revealing the patient's name, gender, age or illness.

"The patient's condition may require treatment beyond what can be provided at the station's medical facility," the NSF said in statement Wednesday.

The NSF said the American patient is in stable condition, but the McMurdo medical facility is "equivalent to an urgent-care center in the U.S., and is not equipped for the type of procedure being contemplated."

The Australian team was positioned in Christchurch and had been waiting for weather and lighting conditions to allow them to make the dangerous trip to the bottom of the world.

Antarctica is in the middle of its six-month winter. It is now dark at McMurdo except for a brief period of twilight at midday, making the flight risky.

A live webcam positioned at McMurdo showed that it was 30 degrees below zero Wednesday. McMurdo is about 2,415 miles south of Christchurch and about 850 miles from the South Pole.

"All nations work together very cooperatively in these sorts of emergency situations in Antarctica to provide support when and as required," Australian Antarctic Division Director Dr. Tony Fleming said in a statement.

This risky rescue was not the first of its kind.

In October 2011, American researcher Renee-Nicole Douceur suffered from a suspected stroke and was rescued from the pole by the U.S. Air Force. And in two separate incidents in 2010, New Zealand helped two Americans get out of McMurdo due to illnesses.

Douceur described the weather conditions that can hinder such a rescue operation.

"As the sun starts rising the weather can start to act up a bit and become very stormy. Weather like anywhere can be very fickle, it can change in a moment's notice," she said.

The most famous rescue was of Dr. Jerri Nielsen in 1999. Nielsen, the doctor at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, diagnosed herself as having breast cancer after she found a lump. She treated herself with chemotherapy agents delivered by parachute from the U.S. Air Force until she was rescued. She even performed her own biopsy procedure.

After her rescue, she was treated and her cancer went into remission, but it returned in 2005. Nielsen died in 2009 at the age of 57.

ABC News' Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report

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