Antarctic helicopter rescue underway at icebound ship

Jan 02, 2014 by Amy Coopes
A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long picks up the first batch of passengers from the stranded Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy as rescue operations take place after over a week of being trapped in the ice off Antarctica, January 2, 2014

A helicopter landed alongside an icebound Russian research ship in Antarctica Thursday and began picking up its 52 trapped passengers, after a number of false starts and failed icebreaking attempts.

The MV Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped in thick pack 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d'Urville since December 24, with several icebreakers forced back to open water by impenetrable floes.

A helicopter rescue was announced on Tuesday, but heavy rain and winds saw it shelved until Thursday morning, when a second attempt was foiled by unfavourable .

But by late afternoon a favourable window had opened, and expedition leader Chris Turney announced that a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long had arrived at the marooned ship to begin evacuating .

"The Chinese helicopter has arrived at the Shokalskiy. It's 100 percent we're off! A huge thanks to all," Turney tweeted.

His posting was accompanied by footage showing the Xue Long's red helicopter touching down on a landing pad marked out on the ice beside the Akademik Shokalskiy and an orange-suited rescue crew disembarking.

A second video, posted about an hour later and shot from the deck, showed the first group of passengers trekking across the ice to the helicopter, followed by a third depicting the second load taking off.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said it received confirmation about 6.15pm Australian time (0715 GMT) that the rescue had begun.

Graphic on the Russian research vessel trapped in the Antarctic since December 24

"AMSA understands the plan is to fly from the Russian ship direct to an ice floe adjacent to the Aurora Australis," AMSA said.

"AMSA has received confirmation that the first transfer of 12 passengers to the Aurora Australis has been completed," it added.

The initial plan had been for the helicopter to ferry the passengers back to the Xue Long, where they would board a barge to be transferred to the Aurora Australis, the Australian government's Antarctic resupply ship.

But sea ice prevented the Australis from launching its barge Thursday, forcing a rethink.

Original estimates were for the aerial evacuation to take at least five hours, but that is now likely to be a under-estimate, with the Xue Long some 12 nautical miles distant and the Australis a further two nautical miles away.

AMSA had estimated the return journey from the Xue Long to the Shokalskiy at 45 minutes, with five trips of up to 12 passengers required and another two flights for equipment and luggage.

Even after the rescue is complete it will be some weeks before the passengers reach dry land, with the Australis having to travel via Australia's Casey Antarctic base to refuel.

A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long hovers above passengers from the stranded Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy in Antarctica, January 2, 2014

The ship's 22 crew will remain on board until the ice breaks up and the Shokalskiy can sail on under her own steam. She is well provisioned and those on board have not been in any danger.

The helicopter operation follows several failed icebreaking attempts, with the Xue Long, Aurora Australis and French-flagged L'Astrolabe all forced to turn back by thick ice that they could not break through.

Passengers on the stranded ship—an eclectic mix of scientists, tourists and journalists—had been following in the footsteps of Australian Sir Douglas Mawson and his 1911-1914 expedition.

The team has been carrying out the same scientific experiments that Mawson's group conducted during their expedition, partly in an attempt to discover how quickly the Antarctic's sea ice is disappearing.

Board games, first-aid and other skills courses and walks on the ice have helped to pass the time. They even penned a theme song about their adventure and filmed themselves singing it on the top deck.

Though they are in remote Antarctica the group dropped in on one of the world's biggest New Year's parties, broadcasting live to celebrations in New York's Times Square from their marooned vessel.

Explore further: Winds, rain halt Antarctic ship rescue

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Winds, rain halt Antarctic ship rescue

Jan 01, 2014

Strong winds and rain Wednesday prevented the helicopter rescue of passengers on a Russian ship stuck in ice off Antarctica, Australian authorities said, as those onboard rang in the New Year with a sing-song ...

Anxious wait for stranded Antarctic ship

Dec 29, 2013

Passengers on a Russian research ship trapped in thick Antarctic ice faced an uncertain wait Sunday for one last icebreaking attempt with no guarantees of success.

Rescue of icebound Antarctic ship faces setback

Dec 28, 2013

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.

Icebound ship in Antarctica edges closer to rescue

Dec 27, 2013

A ship that has been trapped in thick Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve was nearing rescue on Friday, after a Chinese icebreaker named the Snow Dragon drew close to the icebound vessel.

Explorers reach Mawson's Huts in Antarctica

Dec 20, 2013

Two Australian explorers have battled dangerous sea ice to reach the historic Mawson's Huts in Antarctica which have been isolated for years by a giant iceberg blocking the route in, officials said Friday.

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Apr 18, 2014

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
2.7 / 5 (7) Jan 02, 2014
Passengers on the stranded ship—an eclectic mix of scientists, tourists and journalists—had been following in the footsteps of Australian Sir Douglas Mawson and his 1911-1914 expedition.
The team has been carrying out the same scientific experiments that Mawson's group conducted during their expedition, partly in an attempt to discover how quickly the Antarctic's sea ice is disappearing.


Funny how these AGWites got caught in the ice floes they insisted were disappearing. Odd how the story was written with little mention of the primary mission, but did mention, "an eclectic mix of scientists, tourists and journalists". Another example of how "propaganda" works.
http://www.foxnew...melting/
Returners
2 / 5 (8) Jan 02, 2014
One wonders how far over budget this expedition is, if all costs to their own governments and those participating in the failed rescue attempts were counted?

That's a lot of fuel spent by some very large ships to rescue these greenies, who hypocritically preach against the use of such fuel.

And yes, I'd agree with Cantdrive in this case, being caught in a "shrinking" ice jam in the middle of summer ought to make even the strongest AGW fear monger re-think their position. At the very least it makes them incompetent navigators, given modern weather technology and GPS technology, as well as satellite images to track the ice.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 02, 2014
Odd how the story was written with little mention of the primary mission, but did mention, "an eclectic mix of scientists, tourists and journalists". Another example of how "propaganda" works.
http://www.foxnew...melting/
Odd how eclectic electric pseudoscientists refuse to do even a little research to discount propaganda and conspiracy.
http://en.wikiped...okalskiy
ubavontuba
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 02, 2014
Odd how the story was written with little mention of the primary mission, but did mention, "an eclectic mix of scientists, tourists and journalists". Another example of how "propaganda" works.
http://www.foxnew...melting/
Odd how eclectic electric pseudoscientists refuse to do even a little research to discount
propaganda and conspiracy.
http://en.wikiped...okalskiy
Odd how your own reference states, "The expedition hoped to find and document evidence of Global warming."

It's in the section titled: "Icebound in Antarctica"

http://en.wikiped...okalskiy#Icebound_in_Antarctica

dan42day
3 / 5 (2) Jan 03, 2014
The team has been carrying out the same scientific experiments that Mawson's group conducted during their expedition, partly in an attempt to discover how quickly the Antarctic's sea ice is disappearing.


Apparently, not quickly enough.

Anyone know anything about the Chinese counter-rotored helicopter?

ryggesogn2
3 / 5 (2) Jan 03, 2014
"A group of climate change scientists were rescued by helicopter Jan. 2, after being stranded in the ice since Christmas morning. But the majority of the broadcast networks' reports about the ice-locked climate researchers never mentioned climate change.

Read more: http://newsbuster...pL9XCBWe
orti
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2014
A denier's conspiracy -- well funded by the Koch brothers.

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...