“It was an amazing experience that I could have done without,” Birkeland told newspaper VG.
He and his wife were disembarking from the cruise ship Fram at Half Moon Island when the unfortunate traveler slipped on a stone and tumbled backwards.
Once the ship’s doctor ascertained that he had broken his collar bone, the cruise liner quickly set course for King George Island, home to a Chilean military base.
“There I was picked up by a 90-seater four-engine jet plane. My wife and I were the only passengers on the journey to Puerto Arenas in Chile. From Chile, I was flown by air ambulance to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where I lay in hospital for eight days.”
The trip from Antarctica to Buenos Aires alone cost around half a million kroner, he believes.
After racking up more than a week’s worth of hospital charges, he still needed to be brought home to Norway on a stretcher, which was hung from the ceiling at back of the jumbo jet.
Birkeland was full of praise for the assistance he received all the way along his difficult journey home from Antarctica, with medical and airline staff taking the edge off the ordeal.
As he prepared to get some sleep on the transatlantic flight, one of the air hostesses approached his wife to say her husband had requested a goodnight hug.
“I hadn’t expressed any such wish, but it was nice to get it anyway,” he said.
Luckily for Birkeland, the enormous costs were borne by his travel insurer. His experience, he said, should serve as a warning to anyone considering traveling without cover.