Helicopter rescue planned for icebound Russian ship near Antarctica
Passengers remain trapped after icebreakers failed
After previous rescue attempts, the passengers on an icebound Russian ship near Antarctica will be pulled to safety by helicopter. Passengers will be evacuated via a Chinese helicopter as soon as weather allows, Russian officials say. The news comes as a second icebreaker's attempt to rescue the vessel failed.
The Aurora Australis made it to within 10 nautical miles of the stranded MV Akademik Shokalskiy. The Aurora Australis said further rescue attempts could be made once the weather improves.
Presently, snow showers have hampered visibility. The storm forced back an Australian icebreaker struggling to reach the scientific expedition. In addition, an earlier helicopter rescue attempt was also shut down by the weather.
The Snow Dragon, a Chinese vessel, was the first icebreaker to attempt to free the Shokalskiy. The ship first became stranded south of Tasmania in ice last week. The rescue attempt was foiled by blizzards and strong winds.
An Australian professor who helped organize the voyage, Chris Turney said in a Tweet of "Shocking weather today. Wet & windy." Tunney also posted that the Aurora couldn't get through the ice after trying twice.
However, passengers aboard the stranded vessel appear to be in good morale. Over the past week, passengers posted photos, video messages to family and friends and live updates on Twitter. Some of them mentioned seeing penguins and leopard seals. A few of the passengers even left the ship to walk on the thick ice. Everyone on board is reportedly in good health and there was "no threat to their lives or safety."
The trapped ship left New Zealand on November 28 on a privately funded expedition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.
The ship's 74 passengers include scientists and tourists, many of them Australian. There are also 22 Russian crew members.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is coordinating the rescue. The Snow Dragon, they say will remain on standby until the Australian icebreaker the Aurora Australis reaches the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.
The Snow Dragon has a helicopter on board that can be used to rescue passengers if the Aurora Australis can not break through the ice, spokeswoman Lisa Martin says.
"The Aurora Australis is expected to arrive at the scene Sunday evening. It's pretty slow going out there," Martin said.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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