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Ill worker evacuated from Antipodes Islands

In strong winds and heavy swells, one of Wellington’s sea boats was sent to pick up the patient from Hut Cove after the vessel arrived at the Antipodes on Monday morning.

The New Zealand Defence Force has evacuated a government staff member with a potentially serious condition from the Antipodes Islands in its second medical evacuation in three weeks.

Offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington, which was on a resupply mission in the Auckland Islands, was re-tasked on Saturday afternoon to evacuate a Department of Conservation (DOC) staff member following a request from Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, Navy Captain Melissa Ross, the Acting Maritime Component Commander, said.

The Antipodes are about 900 kilometres northeast of the Auckland Islands and 850 kilometres southeast of Bluff. The journey to the Auckland Islands or Bluff from the Antipodes takes up to two days at sea.

“We are pleased that we have been able to help and hope for the best possible outcome for the patient,” Captain Ross said after the ship arrived at Bluff this morning.

“We recognise that time is a crucial factor in medical emergencies. However, the patient could not be transported by helicopter because of the distance, so evacuation by sea was the only option.”

In strong winds and heavy swells, one of Wellington’s sea boats was sent to pick up the patient from Hut Cove after the vessel arrived at the Antipodes on Monday morning.

“Although the conditions were pretty rough, we managed to transfer the patient into the sea boat and then on to the ship,” Lieutenant Commander Damian Gibbs, the Commanding Officer of Wellington, said.

“Once we had the patient on board we made the best speed towards Bluff. We are glad that we got here earlier than scheduled, so the patient could receive the medical attention they needed.”

John McCarroll, DOC’s Acting Operations Manager, said the incident showed how valuable it was to be able to call on the NZDF when these types of emergencies arose.

“Having the NZDF support is crucial to our work in the sub-Antarctic and provides us with a level of assurance while we complete these important tasks,” Mr McCarroll said.

Wellington was in the Antipodes from 19-24 February during the first leg of a three-phase resupply operation in the sub-Antarctic islands. At the Antipodes Islands, which in 2016were the scene of one of the world’s most complex mouse-eradication projects, 10 staff from DOC and three conservation dogs scoured the island to determine whether the project had been successful.

Before leaving for the Antipodes, on 13 February, Wellington rescued a 64-year-old woman with a broken leg from Great Barrier Island. St John New Zealand requested help from the NZDF because weather conditions wouldn’t allow ambulance staff to transport the patient by helicopter or ferry.

Wellington operates throughout New Zealand’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, the Southern Ocean and the Pacific. It undertakes a range of roles, including patrolling, surveillance, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, support to peacekeeping operations and sea training. It has a top speed of 22 knots and a range of 11,000 kilometres at 15 knots.

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