As the Air Force cargo jet cruised through the Antarctic night, recovery teams were getting ready on the ground, as shown in the first digital pictures transmitted to CBS News from the South Pole. CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen, who traveled with the air-drop crew, reports.
Working in minus 86 degree temperatures, which actually stopped one snowmobile cold, two man teams raced to light up the drop zone, by igniting 27 smudge pots filled with wood and gasoline.
The drop zone were barely visible to the approaching cargo jet through blowing ice crystals and smoke.
Lighting smudge pots.
South Pole climatologist Joel Michalski, who took the pictures, reports five of the bundles were found at once, the last 90 minutes later. All were taken to a heated garage for inspection, especially the medical gear. It will confirm the 47-year-woman's condition, which is still not definite. But doctors are presuming the worst.
"We have dropped in supplies with the idea that the patient has a breast lump," said Dr. Gerald Katz of Antarctic Support Associates. "And we will be able to treat whatever it may be."
In Denver, supervising physician Gerald Katz, who declined to confirm the patient is actually the South Pole doctor, did say the doctor performed what is termed a poor man's biopsy: inserting a needle in the breast for cell samples. The air-dropped equipment will re-examine those cells.
"What we plan to do is use some agents that will shrink the mass, regardless of its nature," Katz said.
After the medical equipment, the most cherished supplies were the fresh fruit and vegetables and mail. It wasn't just help that dropped to the Pole that night. It was a little touch of home.