Missing NSF polar station team found alive

A multi-nation team has rescued a National Science Foundation staff member who had been missing from Wednesday evening to Saturday morning from the foundation’s research station at Summit, Greenland.

A 38-year-old U.S. citizen working as a heavy equipment operator at the station for a sub-contractor of CH2M HILL, an engineering, construction and operations company that provides logistical support for NSF’s scientific research efforts in the Arctic, the man had last been seen on Wednesday night near the station’s runway. Reported missing on Thursday morning, he was found alive and alert in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Joining forces to search the area around the station were: NSF contractors at the logistics hub in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland; elements of the Greenland Home Rule Government; the Royal Danish Air Force and chartered aircraft from Air Greenland. They all operated despite storm conditions that hampered search efforts on the ground and in the air. Medical personnel and police with search dogs in Greenland flew into the Summit Station as soon as conditions permitted and immediately joined the search. In addition, elements of the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, NASA and other agencies stood by to offer support for the operation.

While the search was taking place, the missing man used survival techniques taught to all NSF and CH2M HILL-affiliated personnel in polar regions to stay alive, including digging a hole to get out of the wind and frequently moving his body to keep blood circulating. The man is now being treated at a hospital in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, and is expected to recover.

The station is located in central Greenland atop 3200 meters (2 miles) of ice, and is nearly 418 km (260 miles) from the nearest point of land. Summit supports a diversity of scientific research, including year-round measurements of air-snow interactions used to interpret data from deep ice cores drilled both at Summit and elsewhere–research that is crucial to building our understanding of our climate, global warming and other phenomena.

“The research taking place at Summit and other locations at both poles is telling us much about how planet Earth is changing and how it could change in the future,” Karl A. Erb, Director of NSF’s Office of Polar Programs said in a statement yesterday. “Our personnel and contractor support staff endure personal hardships and risks in doing their jobs, and they’re key to the success of our research. All of us at NSF join in thanking Greenlandic and Danish authorities for their good work in carrying out the search and rescue operation.”


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