The Antarctic Christmas Brawl

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Amundsen-Scott South Pole station was the scene of the unofficial title fight for World's Southernmost Pugilist over Christmas, apparently. As a result, one person was medivaced to New Zealand with a broken jaw and the other contender was shipped back to the US.

The brawl happened at the US-operated Amundsen-Scott South Pole station, located at the heart of the frozen continent. The station, where staff carry out a range of scientific investigations from astrophysics to seismology, is currently being rebuilt in a £76m project.

After reports of the fight reached staff at McMurdo station, the headquarters of the US Antarctic Programme, which is located on Ross Island, a US Air Force Hercules was sent to pick up the injured man and the other worker.

They were flown back to McMurdo, but it was decided the man's injuries were too serious to be treated in Antarctica and he was taken on to Christchurch, New Zealand, accompanied by a nurse and a paramedic.

Many of the McMurdo staff had been expecting a day off for Christmas but support workers returned to work to deal with the rare emergency medical evacuation.

A spokeswoman at Christchurch Hospital said a man was admitted on Christmas Day and discharged the following day.

"There was an altercation between two people — there's no indication of the cause or of the background between the two folks," said Peter West, spokesman for the National Science Foundation which manages the US Antarctic programme.

The injured man is an employee of Raytheon Polar Services, one of America's largest defence contractors. A company spokeswoman, Val Carroll, said an investigation into the incident would be held. She said it was company policy not to release names of the two men.

I seem to remember that people sent down to research outposts in Antarctica undergo rigorous medical, dental and psychological testing to see if they can withstand the tensions of living in close quarters for the period of their posting there. (But this article indicates that the psych testing may only be required for those staying through the winter months.) But no matter how much people are tested, real life irritations can sometimes just explode. Pretty expensive fight, though. Flying them out wasn't cheap.

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2 Responses to The Antarctic Christmas Brawl

  1. NortonPete says:

    This ( from the article link ) looks to me like a bit of a problem, “About 95 percent of those who took the psychological test this year passed” .

    I wonder if sitting next to someone who is chewing gum and popping it is in the test?

  2. feeblemind says:

    I didn’t hit the link, but like Nortonpete, I am wondering if some personal mannerism set the two to fighting. Maybe one of them scraped his fork on his teeth when he ate? A year or so ago, a brawl started in a holding cell in North Platte NE (I think) because one of the inmates became extremely and pungently flatulent, and wouldn’t stop. Who knows?

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