Antarctic chopper rescue: Three safe after a day stranded in bitter wilderness

Three researchers stranded after their helicopter crashed in the Antarctic wilderness have been rescued and are being treated at a nearby base, officials said Tuesday.

The pilot and two passengers were badly injured when their aircraft chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division crash landed Sunday more than 170 miles from their destination, Davies Station, Australia's biggest Antarctic base.

Prince Harry finally begins Antarctic trek 1:15

They were cared for overnight by a pilot and passenger from a second helicopter that had been flying with them in tandem, the Australian Antarctic Division said. They waited there until Monday evening when rescuers were able to use a gap in the weather to conduct several rescue flights using a helicopter and a DeHavilland Twin Otter airplane.

The casualties, who were returning from surveying a penguin colony near the Amery Ice Shelf, are back at Davis Station where they were being treated by polar medical experts Tuesday.

"All expeditioners are in a stable condition and are safely back at Davis station undergoing medical assessment," Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.

"I congratulate the work of the rescuers. Their quick thinking and precise planning ensured that all the injured were cared for and kept safe during the ordeal."

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.

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.