Monday 23 October 2017

Ice foils rescue of stranded Russian ship

Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

A group of tourists and scientists remained trapped on board a ship off Antarctica last night after watching a rescue vessel appear on the horizon only to come to a halt in heavy ice.

The 74 passengers and 20 Russian crew of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy have been stuck in a desolate stretch of sea ice since a blizzard on Christmas Eve.

They thought their ordeal had finally ended yesterday when a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, came within sight and prepared to lead them to open water.

But the Snow Dragon stopped about six nautical miles away as the ice proved thick and its master opted -- wisely, according to maritime experts -- to ensure the safety of his own crew. A nearby French vessel also failed to break through the ice.

The passengers -- who include researchers and tourists from Britain, Australia and New Zealand -- are pinning their hopes on a third rescue vessel being able to break through the ice. The Aurora Australis, an Australian resupply ship, is due to arrive on the scene today.

"We all know that there's a possibility of this becoming quite a protracted sit and wait," said Andrew Peacock, a passenger.

The Russian ship is trapped 100 miles east of a French Antarctic station, Dumont D'Urville, and about 1,500 miles south of Tasmania. It was two weeks into a four-week voyage to follow the path a Century ago of the explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, whose expedition across Antarctica went perilously close to disaster. He survived by eating some of the dogs he took to assist with transport.

Professor Chris Turney, a scientist who helped to organise the voyage, said there was no risk to the ship and that everyone was well.

The Shokalskiy has enough fresh food for two weeks and some dehydrated rations.

© Telegraph

Irish Independent

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