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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Russian ship stuck in Antarctic

It's summer in Antarctica and the Russian ship, MV Akademik Shokalskiy, is stuck in 3 metre ice, 2773 kilometres south of Hobart. Chinese and Australian icebreakers are trying to get to them but the ice is too thick. The Chinese Snow Dragon came within 7 miles of the ship before turning back and Aurora Australis tried but had to retreat to open water.  The last resort is a helicopter rescue from the Snow Dragon.

The people on board are retracing Sir Douglas Mawson's Antarctic expedition and conducting scientific research.  They have been trapped since Christmas Eve and look set to celebrate New Year's Eve on the ice.

"There is more risk with a helicopter" Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.  "The icebreaker Aurora Australis will make further attempts when the weather improves, we are looking at trying to keep that going for now."

View from the Russian ship

A decision to evacuate 52 passengers and 4 crew using a helicopter from China's Xue Long (Snow Dragon) was made, but the first attempt was called off due to bad weather. 

The passengers include tourists, scientists and explorers, mostly Australian, and 22 Russian crew.  The ship left New Zealand last month on a research voyage to honour the 100th anniversary of Australian scientist Sir Douglas Mawson.

The Aurora Australis has a rounded keel which slides over the ice and then crashes down into the water below.  Captain Murray Doyle said they can handle thicker layers if he backs up and rams the ice but the ice floes around the ship are too thick to penetrate.

The American icebreaker Polar Star is said to be capable of getting them out but is about two weeks away.  That's about the time their provisions run out.  What an adventure!

Edit January 3, 2014:  The aim of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by global warming alarmist Chris Turney of the University of NSW, was to prove the East Antarctic ice sheet is melting. Instead there were record amounts of ice for this time of year, despite the IPCC’s  predications, which led to their ship becoming stuck for over a week.  Now safely on board the Aurora Australis, the professor and his crew must agree that the dire predictions he believed in, didn’t happen.