Antarctic blizzard halts icebreaker's bid to rescue stranded ship

SYDNEY Mon Dec 30, 2013 4:17pm EST

1 of 4. Barbara Tucker, a passenger aboard the trapped ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy looks at an Adelie penguin walking by on the ice off East Antarctica December 29, 2013, some 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km) south of Hobart, Tasmania.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Peacock

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Antarctic blizzard has halted an Australian icebreaker's attempt to reach a Russian ship trapped for a week with 74 people onboard, rescuers said on Monday.

The Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand on November 28 on a private expedition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

It became trapped in the ice on December 24, 100 nautical miles east of the French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville. The 74 people aboard include scientists and tourists, many of them Australian, and 22 Russian crew.

A first rescue attempt by a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, had to be halted because the ice was so thick.

Now another attempt, by the Aurora Australis, has been hampered by the weather.

It has had to return to open waters about 18 nautical miles from the Akademik Shokalskiy because of poor visibility, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is co-ordinating the rescue, said.

The Australian vessel had reached as close as about 10 nautical miles from the trapped ship before turning back.

"The weather condition is not safe for it to proceed, and it's gone back to open water," said AMSA spokeswoman Lisa Martin.

The Snow Dragon is 6.7 nautical miles from the Akademik Shokalskiy and a helicopter on board will be used to rescue all 52 passengers and some crew if weather conditions permit, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Asked whether the passengers would have to see in the New Year on the stranded ship, Martin said: "It certainly looks like they will be there tomorrow."

(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk in Moscow; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alison Williams)

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Comments (13)
chilly4x4 wrote:
breaking 10′ thick ice to free a research vessel seems counter productive for the cause that is being researched. watch next weeks headlines… “huge ice shelf breaks free!”

Dec 29, 2013 10:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MaggieMP wrote:
Climate warming deniers must be having a field day! Since all seem safe, it *is* hard not to appreciate the irony. I’ve not checked, and not seen mention, but I think the ice is located on the part of Antarctica that’s known to be building ice in recent years, while more westerly regions are losing? (I’ve read penguins are in trouble as there’s such a vast iced region they can’t access sea without a too-long walk; chicks aren’t doing well?)

I do have a question about use of fuel by the breakers (including keeping human quarters warm, etc., on the breakers) vs cutting to chase and using a helicopter. I think humanity is quickly reaching a time when we need to treat fossil fuel as a precious resource. Our schemes to extract/process “what we need so as not to have any worries” are destroying habitats and watersheds globally.

Dec 29, 2013 11:04pm EST  --  Report as abuse
AlkalineState wrote:
World vows to “not pull a Russian navy and let them all die.”

Dec 30, 2013 6:33pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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