Blizzard halts icebreaker’s effort to rescue stranded ship

Helicopter on standby to fly out passengers from Akademik Shokalskiy after Australian rescue attempt thwarted by weather

The Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand on November 28th and has been trapped in ice since Christmas Eve. Photograph: Reuters/Andrew Peacock

The Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand on November 28th and has been trapped in ice since Christmas Eve. Photograph: Reuters/Andrew Peacock

 

An Antarctic blizzard has halted an Australian icebreaker’s attempt to reach a Russian ship trapped for a week with 74 people on board.

The Akademik Shokalskiy (above) left New Zealand on November 28th on a private expedition to commemorate the
100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson.

It became trapped in the ice on Christmas Eve, 100 nautical miles east of the French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville. The
74 on board include scientists and tourists, many of them Australian, and 22 Russian crew.

A first rescue attempt by a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, had to be halted because the ice was so thick. Now another attempt, by the Aurora Australis, has been hampered by the weather. It has had to return to open waters about 18 nautical miles from the Akademik Shokalskiy because of poor visibility,said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is co-ordinating the rescue.

The Australian vessel had reached as close as about 10 nautical miles from the trapped ship before turning back.

“The weather condition is not safe for it to proceed, and it’s gone back to
open water,” said Lisa Martin, a spokeswoman for AMSA.

The Snow Dragon is 6.7 nautical miles from the Akademik Shokalskiy and a helicopter on board will rescue all 52 passengers and some crew if weather permits, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Asked whether the passengers would have to see in the new year on
the stranded ship, Ms Martin said: “It certainly looks like they will be there . . .” – (Reuters)