An Air Force jet will fly into absolute darkness and extreme cold next week to parachute emergency medical supplies to an American research station at the South Pole, officials said yesterday.
The supplies are for the treatment of a 47-year-old woman who is part of a small group staying through the winter at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station operated by the National Science Foundation.
The woman, who was not identified, is a U.S. citizen employed by Antarctic Support Associates, an Englewood, Colo., firm that provides logistical support for NSF researchers at the South Pole Station.
Karl A. Erb, director of NSF's polar programs, said the woman recently discovered a lump in one breast. Medical experts received information about the patient through a satellite link, Erb said, and decided that the woman could be treated with airdropped medical supplies.
The South Pole is in the midst of its winter. Temperatures of 80 degrees below zero are common. The sun never rises during this season, so the pole is in absolute darkness.
Erb said the conditions make the parachute drop of supplies "a challenging flight for both the aircrew and the aircraft."
A statement from the NSF said that nobody has ever been rescued from the South Pole during the winter and that the last airdrop was four years ago. A C-141 Starlifter from McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., will attempt the airdrop Monday, officials said.