SYDNEY, Jan 12 – A Canadian helicopter pilot has died after plunging 20 metres (66 feet) down a crevasse when he landed on a remote ice shelf in Antarctica, Australian officials said Tuesday.
David Wood, 62, was winched out of the deep crack after two hours by specialist officers from Australia’s Davis scientific research station.
Wood was flown by helicopter to a medical facility at the station in critical condition, where he was attended by specialists on station and in Australia via telemedicine.
“Mr Wood was a respected colleague and friend to many in the Australian Antarctic program, with which he has been involved for a number of years,” the Australian Antarctic Division said in a statement announcing the death and sending condolences to his family.
Wood had flown to the remote site some 90 nautical miles northeast of Davis station as part of a routine operation to drop off fuel.
After disembarking Monday night, he fell into the crevasse. Another pilot, who was in a separate helicopter and unable to help, flew back to Davis station — about a 45-minute flight away — and returned with the three specialist officers.
One of these entered the crevasse and winched the injured man out, the Division’s director Nick Gales told reporters earlier in Tasmania.
Gales said the West Ice Shelf was a very remote part of eastern Antarctic, with general working conditions on the frozen continent “always very dangerous and especially in the remote field”.
Wood was employed by a helicopter firm working with Australia’s Antarctic programme.
Davis is the southernmost of Australia’s three Antarctic stations, which also include Casey and Mawson, along with a sub-Antarctic station at Macquarie Island.
About 30 nations operate permanent research stations in Antarctica including the US, Russia, Australia, Britain, France and Argentina.