An ice-strengthened research vessel has reached the stricken fishing vessel Sparta and her 32 crew after 10 days stuck in Antarctic ice, according to Maritime New Zealand. The vessel has been stuck since striking ice on December 16, resulting in a 30 cm hole in her hull.
Rescue coordinators at RCCNZ confirmed this morning that the R/V Araon, which has ice breaking capabilities, arrived on scene at the Sparta early on December 26th. By 5 am officials confirmed that the Araon was alongside Sparta and transferring fuel, which is expected to lift the bow of out of the water enough so that the hole can be fixed.
Sparta issued a mayday call at 3am December 16 saying the vessel was taking on water and listing to 13 degrees. To make problems worse the vessel was about 2,000 nautical miles SE of New Zealand and practically sitting on the Antarctic ice shelf, several days from the closest vessel, not to mention a vessel with icebreaking capabilities. After ditching cargo and non-essential crew onto the ice, the vessel was stabilized and receiving air drops of supplies – including pumps and patches – from an RNZAF C-130 Hercules aircraft. Commissioned by Sparta’s owner, the Aaron left New Zealand on December 18th and was expected to take eight days to reach Sparta.
Sparta is now expected to be escorted out of the area under her own power pending successful completion of repairs. The 32 crew on board are said to be safe.