Passengers Rescued from Russian Expedition Vessel Off Antarctica

Mike Schuler
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January 2, 2014

All rights reserved.

A helicopter from a nearby Chinese icebreaker has successfully rescued all 52 passengers from a Russian expedition vessel beset by ice since Christmas Eve.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has confirmed via Twitter that all 52 passengers from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy are now onboard the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis. The 22 crew are expected to stay onboard the vessel.

Five flights were conducted to take the passengers from a makeshift helipad near the Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis located about 14 nautical miles away, according to the AMSA. The helicopter landed on an ice floe adjacent to the Aurora Australis.

The AMSA said it was notified at 10:05 p.m. AEDT that all 52 passengers had been safely rescued and were on board the Aurora Australis.

The Aurora Australis is now battling heavy ice as it heads towards open water at a quarter knot, AMSA said. It is expected that it will take until late evening to reach open water.

The Aurora Australis will then head towards the Casey base to complete a resupply before heading to Australia. The vessel is not expected to arrive in Australia until mid-January.

Images copyright  Andrew Peacock/footloosefotography and The Australasian Antarctic Expedition All rights reserved.
Images copyright
Andrew Peacock/footloosefotography and The Australasian Antarctic Expedition
All rights reserved.

The MV Akademik Shokalskiy left New Zealand on Nov. 28 on a private expedition and became trapped by ice on December 24, 100 nautical miles east of French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles south of Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania. The search and rescue operation commenced on Christmas morning AEDT after the Falmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in the United Kingdom received a distress message via satellite from the Shokalskiy. The distress message and subsequent coordination of the incident was passed to RCC Australia, who is the responsible search and rescue authority for this area.

Subsequent attempts by icebreakers to reach the ship were unsuccessful due to sea ice extent and blizzard conditions.

The incident has gained international media attention over the holidays, with live updates from some of the scientists onboard the ship.

The Shokalskiy’s 74 passengers include scientists and tourists, many of them Australian, and 22 Russian crew.

There was never any immediate danger to the passengers or crew throughout the entire incident.

The video below shows the conditions the Aurora Australis icebreaker was faced with trying to reach the stranded ship.

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Approximate location of the vessels involved as of December 30. Image released by AMSA.

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