In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy link arms and stamp out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - A helicopter rescued all 52 passengers
from a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice since
Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the
A helicopter carried the scientists and
tourists from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski in groups of 12 to a
Australian icebreaker, said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's
Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue. The Aurora
Australis will now take the passengers to the Australian island state of
Tasmania, a journey expected to last two weeks.
PHOTOS: Passengers rescued from ship stuck in Antarctic ice
"I think everyone
is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and
then home," expedition leader Chris Turney told The Associated Press by
satellite phone from the Antarctic.
All 22 crew members stayed
with their icebound vessel, which is not in danger of sinking and has
weeks' worth of supplies on board. They will wait until the ice that has
paralyzed the ship breaks up.
The eagerly anticipated rescue came
after days of failed attempts to reach the vessel. Blinding snow,
strong winds, fog and thick sea ice forced rescuers to turn back time
Three icebreakers were dispatched to try and crack
their way through the ice surrounding the ship, but all failed. The
Aurora came within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the ship Monday, but
fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.
Thursday, it appeared the weather had thwarted yet another rescue
attempt. The helicopter was originally going to airlift the passengers
to a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, with a barge then ferrying
them to the Aurora. But sea ice prevented the barge from reaching the
Snow Dragon, and the maritime authority said the operation would have to
A last-minute change in plans allowed the rescue to
go ahead. The passengers were instead flown to an ice floe next to the
Aurora and then taken by a small boat to the Australian ship, Turney
The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on Nov. 28,
got stuck after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing
it in place about 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) south of Hobart,
Tasmania. The scientific team on board had been recreating Australian
explorer Douglas Mawson's 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica.
had hoped to continue the trip if an icebreaker managed to free the
ship. Despite his disappointment over the expedition being cut short, he
said his spirits remained high.
"I'm a bit sad it's ended this way," he said. "But we got lots and lots of great science done."
son's 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica. Turney had hoped to continue the trip if an icebreaker managed to free the ship.
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