When Dwayne Rooke fractured his pelvis and broke both ankles, his friends and co-workers called an ambulance.
Trouble was, the nearest one was 1,600 miles away, and it had to fly onto a runway made of ice and dodge penguins.
The ambulance was flown by highly trained pilots with the 109th Airlift Wing at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Glenville, and they were flying into Davis Station, Antarctica.
A C-130 transport plane was used to evacuate Rooke, 31, an Australian civilian working as a chef at Davis, to Hobart, Australia, on Nov. 5. The trip took 10 hours of flying time and covered 2,600 miles one way.
The Australians, who operate the Antarctic research station, requested the airlift after Rooke’s medical condition worsened, said Maj. David Lafrance, mission commander. Rooke had been receiving round-the-clock medical care for two weeks prior to his evacuation by the base’s sole physician.
The Australians considered using their Australian Antarctic research and supply ship Aurora Australia and a helicopter to evacuate Rooke, but settled on the 109th because of the severity of his medical condition, said Master Sgt. Jennifer Ray, an emergency medical technician with the 109th’s 139th Airlift Squadron who helped care for Rooke during the flight, along with a physician brought down from Australia and other medical personnel. Rooke remained sedated throughout the flight.
“We flew in and rescued him,” Ray said.
David Station sits on the coast of Antarctica, 1,600 miles from McMurdo Station, which is an American Antarctic research center on the southern tip of Ross Island on the shore of McMurdo Sound.
The 109th supports the National Science Foundation center each year through Operation Deep Freeze. The aircraft used to help Rooke was deploying to Antarctica when diverted to help, Lafrance said.
The plane flew from Christchurch, New Zealand, to McMurdo, where the crew rested a day then flew it to Davis Station. The evacuation took two days.
After the plane left Davis, the Australian ship arrived and destroyed the runway, which had been created on an ice shelf in front of Davis Station.
Lafrance called the landing and takeoff textbook, except for the penguins.
“We could not land until they shooed them away,” he said.