Accident At Antarctica’s McMurdo Station Claims Lives Of Two Technicians
An accident at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station has claimed the lives of two technicians, the Guardian is reporting.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported this week that two fire-suppression technicians had been dispatched to the station, on Antarctica’s Ross Island, to install equipment at a generator building. A helicopter pilot noticed that smoke was coming from the floor of the building where the two technicians had been working, and landed his craft to inspect the situation. There he found the two employees unconscious.
Technicians attempted CPR on one of the victims, while the other was flown to a nearby medical clinic and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
As of this writing, neither the NSF nor the technicians’ employer, Virginia-based subcontractor PAE, has revealed any information about the technicians’ identities. The NSF did say that their deaths are not being treated as suspicious. Meanwhile, a panel appointed by the NSF will investigate the deaths.
According to the New York Times, McMurdo is the largest (by population) research station on the continent. About 1,000 people live and work there during the Antarctic summer, and about a quarter of that number remain to work for the winter. The station is about 850 miles from the South Pole, which also houses researchers and scientists during the summer and the winter, fielding a much smaller crew in the winter. The nearest major international airport is in Christchurch, New Zealand, about 2,500 miles away.
— Salsa Antarctica (@SalsaAntarctica) December 10, 2018
Most scientists who come to McMurdo are studying climate change — such as the effects of melting glaciers on ocean currents — or local animals, such as the penguins who populate the continent’s islands.
Winter temperatures at McMurdo can reach as low as -58 degree Fahrenheit, while in the summer it can reach a practically balmy 46 degree Fahrenheit.
Despite Antarctica’s absolutely unforgiving hostility to humans, which includes winters where the sun completely disappears for six months at a time, deaths at McMurdo — and Antarctica’s other research stations — are comparatively rare. Excluding shipping and airplane accidents, only six people have been killed on the continent since 1948, prior to this week.
In February of 2012, as CNN reported at the time, two Brazilian sailors were killed, and one injured, when a fire broke out at Comandante Ferraz station on King George Island. Similarly, in 2008, as the Antarctic Sun reported at the time, a fire at the Russian Antarctic Expedition (RAE) research station Progress claimed the life of one scientist. In 1948, two scientists were killed in a fire at the U.K.’s Hope Bay Station, according to Cool Antarctica. And in 2016, as the Washington Post reported at the time, a snowmobile accident claimed the life of a climate scientist.