Rescue of icebound Antarctic ship faces setback

Dec 28, 2013 by Kristen Gelineau
In this image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. The research ship, with 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, when it got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock)

A Chinese icebreaker that was en route to rescue a ship trapped in Antarctic ice was forced to turn back on Saturday after being unable to push its way through the heavy sea ice.

The Snow Dragon icebreaker came within 7 miles (11 kilometers) of the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve, but had to retreat after the ice became too thick, said spokesman Alvin Stone.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on a to Antarctica, got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. The ship wasn't in danger of sinking, and there are weeks' worth of supplies for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, but the vessel cannot move.

Three icebreakers, including the Snow Dragon, have been trying to reach the ship since Wednesday. France's L'Astrolabe made it to the edge of the surrounding the ship on Saturday, but called off its mission after it, too, failed to break through, said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the rescue.

The third icebreaker, Australia's Aurora Australis, has the best chance of cutting through the ice, and is expected to arrive on Sunday, Martin said. The Snow Dragon will remain in the area in case its help is needed.

"I think we're probably looking at another 24 hours of twiddling our fingers and waiting for something to happen," said Stone, the expedition spokesman.

In this image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. The research ship, with 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, when it got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock)

The scientific team on board the research ship—which left New Zealand on Nov. 28—had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica when it became trapped. They plan to continue their expedition after they are freed, expedition leader Chris Turney said.

Passengers and crew initially had to contend with blizzard conditions, including winds up to 70 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour), but the weather has calmed considerably since then, Turney said.

In this image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. The research ship, with 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, when it got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock)

Despite the interruption to the expedition, the scientists have continued their research while stuck, counting birds in the area and drilling through the ice surrounding the ship to photograph sea life. Those on board also managed to celebrate the holiday with a traditional Christmas feast and a "Secret Santa" gift exchange, which helped keep everyone's spirits high, Turney said.

In this image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, people gather on the ice next the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy that is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. The research ship, with 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, when it got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard's whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock)


Explore further: Icebound ship in Antarctica edges closer to rescue

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Sinister1812
5 / 5 (1) Dec 29, 2013
Another setback?! Geez.
Maggnus
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 29, 2013
Now that's what I call living with your work!
Benni
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2013
Were they researching Climate Change or Global Warming? Must have been Climate Change due to the extraordinary change in the build up of the ice pack they didn't expect to see & got stuck in.

I wonder how many of the onboard tourists really were looking to help feed polar bears desperately seeking rescue from a diminishing ice flow that had been isolating them from their food supply half a world away. It's a shame the Ice Age had to come to an end, otherwise we could have a lot more polar bears to look at & maybe even admire as they wander through our front yards in Miami Beach, FLA.
Maggnus
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2013
Help feed polar bears at the south pole? Can you explain why polar bears don't eat penguins?
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2013
@Benni
Polar bears are indigenous to the Arctic circle. this article is about a ship stuck in ice around Antarctica. it is even mentioned in the title.

@Maggnus
Ryggy is at it again! i just won $50! (polar bears eating penguins...good one!)
lewando
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2013
It is very likely that some of the tourists and "scientists" were expecting polar bears, given the apparent "dope factor" of all aboard.
Benni
5 / 5 (1) Dec 30, 2013
Help feed polar bears at the south pole? Can you explain why polar bears don't eat penguins?


Mag, I was kidding, Lew picked up on it.........I remember a few years ago when some news mag rag ran an expose about polar ice melting leaving hungry polar bears stranded on melting ice flows near the north pole, then a couple weeks later I read about a bunch of concerned Europeans thinking they may never get a chance to see a polar bear because they were about to go extinct, so they bought tickets for a cruise to Antarctica & discovered after they got there that they were at the wrong pole. But what the hell, white ice is also pretty to look at, after all it too may soon go extinct in short order ( yeah, snowball's chance in hell for thatas well).
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Dec 30, 2013
@Benni
Mag, I was kidding, Lew picked up on it


i see what you did there now... my apologies for being too analytical.

i would love to see links to those stories... i need a good laugh.
Cantdrive85 keeps talking in circles...