Monday 22 January 2018

Chinese icebreaker stuck after helping in Antarctic rescue

The Xue Long (Snow Dragon) Chinese icebreaker, as seen from Australia's Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis, sits in an ice pack unable to get through to the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica, 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, January 2, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Fairfax's Australian Antarctic Division. REUTERS/Fairfax/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout via Reuters
The Xue Long (Snow Dragon) Chinese icebreaker, as seen from Australia's Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis, sits in an ice pack unable to get through to the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica, 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, January 2, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Fairfax's Australian Antarctic Division. REUTERS/Fairfax/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout via Reuters
A helicopter from the Xue Long (Snow Dragon) Chinese icebreaker unloads rescued passengers from the ice-bound Russian ship, Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica, 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, January 2, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Fairfax's Australian Antarctic Division. A rescue effort to remove 52 passengers on board a research ship that had been trapped in Antarctica ice for nine days was successful, and they were evacuated safely by helicopter, the expedition leader said on Thursday. A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon ferried the passengers in small groups several times from the Russian ship and transferred them to an Australian Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Fairfax/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout via Reuters (ANTARCTICA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER) NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

A Chinese icebreaker that helped rescue 52 passengers from a Russian ship stranded in Antarctic ice found itself stuck in heavy ice today, further complicating the 9-day "roller-coaster" rescue operation.

The Snow Dragon had ferried the passengers from the stranded Russian ship to an Australian icebreaker late on Thursday. It now had concerns about its own ability to move through heavy ice, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.

"It will attempt to maneuver through the ice when tidal conditions are most suitable during the early hours of 4 January 2014," AMSA said.

The Australian icebreaker carrying the rescued passengers, the Aurora Australis, will remain on standby in open water in the area "as a precautionary measure", the rescue agency said.

The Aurora Australis had meant to sail towards an Antarctic base to complete a resupply before carrying the rescued passengers back to Australia.

A helicopter from the Snow Dragon carried the 52 scientists and tourists in small groups from the ice-bound Akademik Shokalskiy to the Australian supply ship late on Thursday.

The rescue, delayed due to weather and ice conditions, took around five hours to complete. It had been a "roller-coaster" rescue, said Greg Mortimer, one of three expedition leaders on the Akademik Shokalskiy.

"I was immensely relieved for the people under my care," Mortimer, quoted by the Age newspaper, said after arriving on the Aurora Australis. He said he was "very sad" to leave behind the Russian vessel and its crew.

PASSENGERS HAPPY ABOARD ICEBREAKER

"The passengers seem very glad to now be with us and they are settling in to their new accommodation," Jason Mundy, Australian Antarctic Division Acting Director, who is on board the Aurora Australis, said on Friday morning.

Mundy said there were enough rooms for the passengers, and the ship can "look after them well for the final part of their journey".

Passengers, mostly Australians and New Zealanders, will probably arrive in Australia's southern island state of Tasmania around mid-January. The Akademik Shokalskiy's Russian crew will stay on board until the ice breaks up and the ship is freed.

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

It became trapped on December 24, 100 nautical miles east of French Antarctic station Dumont d'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles south of Tasmania.

During their time on the ice, passengers amused themselves with movies, classes in knot tying, languages, yoga and photography, and rang in the New Year with dinner, drinks and a song composed about their adventure.

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

The Aurora Australis and a French flagged ship tried to help, but failed to reach the ship because of strong winds and heavy snow.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News