independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Trapped Antarctic voyagers celebrate New Year

A group of people on board a research ship trapped in Antarctic ice for a week have been keeping their spirits up by filming themselves celebrating the new year and posting them on the internet.

In one, the lively bunch squeeze together in a small tent to perform a humorous song about their plight, while in a second they sing Auld Lang Syne as they stamp down the snow near the ship in preparation for the arrival of a rescue helicopter.

Three icebreakers have now failed to reach the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve with 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board.

It was hoped the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis would be able to get through the thick ice and allow them to continue on their way but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water yesterday after it came within 12 miles of the stranded ship.

A helicopter on board a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, will now be used to collect the passengers. The Snow Dragon, which is waiting with the Aurora at the edge of the ice pack, was also unable to crack through the ice, as was France's L'Astrolabe.

In the video filmed in the tent, a male member of the group introduces them as the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), adding that they are "just about to enter 2014".

With plenty of laughing and giggling they then sing their song, which begins: "We're the AAE who have travelled far, having fun doing science in Antarctica.

"Lots of snow and lots of ice, lots of penguins which are very, very nice.

"Really good food and company, but a bloody great shame we are still stuck here."

The three-minute film ends with them calling out "happy new year".

The crew of a research ship trapped in Antarctic ice is awaiting a helicopter rescue. (MoD)
The crew of a research ship trapped in Antarctic ice is awaiting a helicopter rescue. (MoD)

In the second video, which they also posted on YouTube, a larger group are filmed outside flattening the snow outside and singing Auld Lang Syne.

Expedition leader Professor Chris Turney tells the camera: "It's the 31st of December at 3pm. We've just learnt the Aurora can't reach us so we're just preparing the helipad by getting the team to stomp down on this snow and ice so the Chinese helicopter from Snow Dragon can reach us - when the weather improves."

When conditions allow it they will be flown back to the Snow Dragon in groups of 12, and then transferred by barge to the Aurora.

All 52 passengers will be evacuated, but the crew on the Akademik Shokalskiy will stay behind with the ship and wait for the ice to break up naturally, expedition spokesman Alvin Stone said.

The vessel, which left New Zealand on November 28, got stuck after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place about 1,700 miles south of Hobart, Tasmania. The ship is not in danger of sinking and there are weeks' worth of supplies on board.

The AAE team had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica but this endeavour will now have to be cut short.

Mr Stone previously said those on board appeared to be taking it all in their stride.

"Surprisingly, all the passengers seem to be considering it the adventure of a lifetime," he said.

Press Association

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