LONDON — An injured British naval officer and an army lance corporal were rescued Friday in a daring helicopter operation after being stranded for five days on a blizzard-swept mountain in the Antarctic with only a small tent for shelter.
Lt. Cmdr. Clive Waghorn, who fell 50 feet and broke a leg Monday while leading a survey party was found "alive, as well as could be expected, and alert," and he and Lance Cpl. Terry Gill were flown to the Royal Navy support ship Olna, a British officer reported.
The accident occurred at an altitude of more than 2,500 feet on a mountain on Brabant Island, which lies off the Antarctic Peninsula about 2,000 miles from the South Pole.
Since Waghorn's fall, he and Gill had huddled in a tent while the other two members of the expedition went to seek help.
The rescue operation was described in London as a "last ditch" effort, coming after several unsuccessful attempts to send in helicopters from the Royal Navy's exploration ship Endurance and the Olna.
'A Miraculous Break'
Waghorn was sighted Friday by a helicopter from the Olna. An officer on board the Endurance was quoted as saying that there had been "a miraculous break in the clouds" and that a flare had been dropped to mark the site.
Not long afterward, another helicopter landed the rescue party-- three marines and a Royal Navy doctor who attended to Waghorn's injury.
Waghorn and Gill reportedly had rations for nine days when the accident occurred, but there had been concern that their supply of morphine, used to relieve Waghorn's pain, might soon be exhausted.
An officer on the Endurance, Lt. Chris Pardoe, said in a radio-telephone interview that two helicopters had tried for days to sight the two men's tent on the mountainside. He said rescue efforts had been hindered by "gale force winds, heavy seas and swell."
On Friday, he said, "just before we were about to call it a day, a break in the clouds enabled the tent to be spotted by one of the helicopters."
The Endurance was one of the ships involved in Britain's war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, in 1982. It patrolled the South Atlantic between the Falklands and South Georgia Island and was involved in the recovery of South Georgia Island by Royal Marines.