NSF Press Statement

Press Statement - June 17, 1999 Horizontal Rule

Media contact: Peter West (703) 292-8070 pwest@nsf.gov

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Statement by Dr. Karl A. Erb
Office of Polar Programs

On Medical Status of South Pole Personnel

Officials of the National Science Foundation (NSF) are consulting with medical experts in the United States to assess the physical condition of a member of the team of 41 people who are "wintering over" at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The 47-year-old woman, a U.S. citizen who is employed by Antarctic Support Associates (ASA), of Englewood, Colo., recently notified officials at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Va., that she had discovered a lump in one of her breasts. Using a satellite communications link, doctors are being provided with the information necessary to determine whether or not the growth poses any immediate threat to the patient's health. As always, the physical health and safety of NSF personnel, and of its contractors, remains NSF's highest priority.

Except for telecommunications links, the station is otherwise virtually cut off from the outside world between February and November, in conditions of extreme cold -- with low temperatures averaging 80 degrees below zero Fahrenheit -- and almost absolute darkness.

NSF, through the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), operates three scientific stations on the Antarctic continent; Amundsen-Scott; McMurdo, on the Ross Sea; and Palmer, on the Antarctic Peninsula. ASA provides logistical support to the scientific mission of the USAP. Personnel who are selected to spend the winter months at the South Pole are screened for medical conditions that might require treatment beyond that which the station clinic is capable of providing.

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[Note: The above page is an archived National Science Foundation media advisory that is not currently available on the NSF news pages]