Aurora Australis Icebreaker Reaches Australia with 52 Rescued Passengers

File Photo: Researchers from Aurora Australis observing a pair of penguins
File Photo: Researchers from Aurora Australis observing a pair of penguins.

The 52 passengers rescued from a Russian expedition vessel that became stuck in an Antarctic ice floe over the holidays have reached Australia safe and sound.

The passengers began disembarking the Aurora Australis icebreaker Wednesday morning in Hobart, Tasmania three weeks after their dramatic Southern Ocean rescue.

The 52 people, mostly scientists and tourists from Australia, were passengers onboard the Russian ship M/V Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on November 28 on a private expedition and became trapped by ice on December 24 just off the coast of Antarctica.

The Aurora Australis, along with the Chinese icebreaker Zue Long, were diverted to assist and spent almost two weeks trying to reach the vessel. The passengers were eventually airlifted from the ice floe January 3 by the Zue Long’s helicopter and transferred to the Aurora Australis for transport back to Australia.

The story gained international media attention over the holidays due to a number of failed attempts to reach the vessel and constant live updates from the passengers onboard.

Following the passenger’s rescue, the 22 crewmembers of the Akademik Shokalskiy remained with the vessel and were freed January 7 after the ice shifted, allowing the vessel to free itself.

A correspondent for the Guardian and BBC TV, who was one of the passengers, just summed up the drama with this tweet after finally stepping onto dry land today:

Sounds like it.