Update (December 27, 2013) – The first of three icebreakers tasked with freeing a Russian expedition ship with 74 people onboard near Antarctica is within a few miles of the vessel.
An update late Friday (AEDT) said that the first icebreaker, a Chinese icebreaker called Snow Dragon, was within 15 nautical miles from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy as of 6:30 pm AEDT. A second icebreaker was within 20 nautical and progressing at slow speed towards the stranded ship.
Photos from the scene show weather conditions improved Friday, with strong winds and snow diminishing. Conditions are expected to remain favourable for the next two days, according to the AMSA.
Chris Turney, a scientist onboard the Shokalskiy, has been live tweeting the arrival of the Snow Dragon and spirits seem to be pretty high. You can follow his update @ProfChrisTurney or the hashtag #spiritofmawson
Original (December 26, 2013):
(Reuters) – Three icebreakers are en route to an area off the coast of Antarctica to help free a vessel carrying 74 people, including a scientific expedition team, which is stranded in thick sheets of ice, officials said on Thursday.
The Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped since Tuesday when ice pushed by strong winds surrounded the vessel, according to an Australian professor who helped organize the trip.
“We’re surrounded by sea ice, we just can’t get through,” Chris Turney, a professor of climate change at the University of New South Wales said in a video posted on YouTube.
“Everyone is safe, the vessel is perfectly safe. But we can’t make a passage forward,” he said in the video posted on Thursday.
Three ships with icebreaking capability have been dispatched to help dislodge the vessel, which is located about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.
The first icebreaker, a Chinese vessel called the Snow Dragon, is expected to reach the ship on Friday, Turney said.
A low-pressure system has hung over the stranded ship, Turney said, creating blizzard conditions with wind gusts at times reaching in excess of 70 kph (43 mph).
The ship’s passengers include some 50 scientists and tourists, many of them Australian, and some 20 crew members, mostly believed to be Russian.
The ship departed New Zealand on Nov. 28 on a privately funded expedition which commemorates the 100th anniversary of an Antarctic journey led by famed Australian explorer Douglas Mawson. (Reporting by Kevin Gray; editing by Andrew Hay)
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