independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Helicopter rescues passengers stuck in Antarctic ice

A helicopter has reached a Russian ship stranded in Antarctica for nine days and is picking up 52 passengers who spent Christmas and the New Year trapped in ice, the expedition leader said today.

The helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon is taking the passengers from the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy and transferring them to an Australian Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis.

Chris Turney, the leader of the private expedition, said conditions had improved enough to mount the rescue after days of blizzards, fog and shifting sea ice.

"The Chinese helicopter has arrived @ the Shokalskiy. It's 100% we're off! A huge thanks to all," Turney posted on Twitter.

Television pictures showed the helicopter checking out a makeshift landing pad on the ice then apparently picking up the first group of 12 passengers.

The Russian ship left New Zealand on Nov. 28 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

It became trapped on Dec. 24, 100 nautical miles east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles south of Australia's southern island state of Tasmania.

A helicopter carrying rescue workers sent to evacuate the passengers of Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve, prepares to land at Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica, 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800km) south of Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, in this still image taken from video shot by expedition leader Chris Turney, Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, on January 2, 2014. The Chinese helicopter has reached a Russian ship stranded in Antarctica for nine days and is beginning to pick up 52 passengers who spent Christmas and the New Year trapped in ice, Turney said on Thursday.   REUTERS/Chris Turney via youtube.com/user/christurney/videos/Handout via Reuters TV    (ANTARCTICA - Tags: MARITIME ENVIRONMENT DISASTER) ATTENTION EDITORS  THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A helicopter carrying rescue workers sent to evacuate the passengers of Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve, prepares to land at Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica, 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800km) south of Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, in this still image taken from video shot by expedition leader Chris Turney, Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, on January 2, 2014. The Chinese helicopter has reached a Russian ship stranded in Antarctica for nine days and is beginning to pick up 52 passengers who spent Christmas and the New Year trapped in ice, Turney said on Thursday. REUTERS/Chris Turney via youtube.com/user/christurney/videos/Handout via Reuters TV (ANTARCTICA - Tags: MARITIME ENVIRONMENT DISASTER) ATTENTION EDITORS THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Everyone on board was believed to be in good condition and they were never in any great danger.

The Chinese ship got within sight of the Akademik Shokalskiy on Saturday, but turned back after failing to break through the ice, which was more than 3 metres (10 feet) thick in some place.

Two other vessels, Australia's Aurora Australis and a French flagged ship, also tried to help but failed to reach the ship because of strong wind and heavy snow.

 

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