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Press Release - Antarctic Tragedy

Issue date: 23 Jul 2003
Number: 01/2003

Press Statement - 23 July 2003 It is with the deepest sorrow that British Antarctic Survey (BAS) reports the death of a marine biologist at Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. Kirsty Margot Brown, 28, was attacked without warning by a leopard seal while she was snorkelling at her study site in the bay adjacent to the station. She was with her snorkelling 'buddy' when the seal pulled her underwater and contact with her was lost. The two-person shore-cover team saw the incident, and a rescue boat was launched immediately in an attempt to save her. Her colleagues were able to pull her from the water and begin resuscitation procedures in the boat whilst transferring her to the research station. Despite carrying out Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for one hour, the station doctor and colleagues were unable to revive her. The tragedy happened yesterday (22 July 2003) around 16.50 hrs local time (20.50 UK time). None of her colleagues was injured. There will be a full investigation. Director of BAS, Professor Chris Rapley CBE said, 'This is tragic and shocking. My heart goes out to Kirsty's family and her colleagues at Rothera. Kirsty was a vibrant, dynamic individual, committed to her science and with a promising scientific career ahead of her. The Rothera team reacted in a highly efficient and professional manner of which we, and they, can be proud. They are, however, shaken by the loss of a colleague and will need our support.' Leopard seals are often inquisitive when they encounter humans. However, they are not generally known to attack humans unless provoked. BAS has been carrying out research involving snorkelling and diving for the last 30 years. Ends Issued by BAS Press Office: Linda Capper tel: 01223 221448, mobile 07714 233744 email l.capper@bas.ac.uk or Athena Dinar tel: 01223 221414, mobile: 07740 822229 email: a.dinar@bas.ac.uk Notes for Editors: BAS Deputy Director and Head of Personnel informed Kirsty's family, who live in West Sussex, this morning (Wed 23 July). Two of her Cambridge-based colleagues are providing support to the family. Kirsty Brown's research project involved looking at the impact of iceberg scouring on Antarctic near-shore marine animal communities. She and her colleagues were working at her study site when the incident occurred. She was a qualified and experienced scientific diver. She joined BAS in summer 2002 on a 30-month contract. Kirsty Brown was born in September 1974. Her first degree (Geology 2.1, Royal Holloway College, University of London) was completed in 1995. Kirsty's academic career next took her to Southampton University (MSc in Oceanography 1997) and subsequently to Adelaide University, South Australia. Kirsty worked as a Diver as part of Imperial College's Greenland Diving Expedition in 1995 and then as a Field Assistant in Greenland during the summer of 1996 for the Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme and as a research scientist in Canberra. A keen diver, Kirsty had gained BSAC dive leader qualifications and a commercial HSE Part IV professional diver's qualification. She had experience of diving off Greenland, in temperate and tropical waters off Australia and in UK waters. British Antarctic Survey is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council and is responsible for the majority of the UK Government's research in Antarctica. BAS Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula is the centre for biology, geoscience and atmospheric science programmes. Twenty-two research and support staff are 'wintering' there at present. The end of the Antarctic winter is approaching. The BAS 2003-04 field season is due to commence in October. Medical facilities at Rothera include a surgery with emergency facilities. There is a full-time doctor at the station to deal with general health care and emergencies. There are comprehensive risk assessment and safety procedures for research station activities. For more information about the British Antarctic Survey and Rothera Research Station look at the website www.antarctica.ac.uk