Rescuers were in a race against time Monday to save three people badly injured in a helicopter crash in Antarctica, officials said.
The pilot and two passengers were forced to make an emergency landing while returning from a scientific mission to survey a penguin colony Sunday night, the Australian Antarctic Division said.
Stranded more than 170 miles from the nearest major outpost, the casualties were being treated by the crew of a second helicopter which was flying with them in tandem.
The Australian Antarctic Division, which chartered the helicopter, said it now needs to find a gap in the weather so it can land a suitable aircraft and transfer the wounded to Davies Station, its main base in Antarctica around 172 miles away.
"Because of the nature of the incident and the environment, their injuries are being treated as serious," an Australian Antarctic Division statement said.
"The Australian Antarctic Division is hoping a weather window in the next few hours will allow further positioning of aircraft to assist with the recovery."
The Australian Antarctic Division dispatched an airplane early afternoon Monday (Sunday night ET), to look for a suitable place to land so they could begin transferring the casualties to Davis Station.
“The pilot and a passenger on the second helicopter are caring for the injured until additional medical support can be flown to the area and a recovery operation mounted,” the Australian Antarctic Division added.
“Reports from the incident site are that all are warm and sheltered and being closely monitored. Communication is being maintained with Davis Station.”
Although November and December are two of the warmer months in that area, temperatures rarely go above 30 degrees Fahrenheit and can drop to as low as 12 degrees, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
An Australian Antarctic Division spokeswoman told the Australian Associated Press: "Everyone's warm, everybody's well attended to, there's a field training officer who's got extensive wilderness first aid skills down there so they are very well attended to."
Several reports said the three on board were Australian nationals. But the New Zealand Herald reported one of them was a New Zealand citizen, citing a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman.
The Australian Antarctic Division said it does not yet know the cause of the incident.
First published December 2 2013, 6:53 AM