The Russian polar expedition ship in Antarctica became stuck after winds and freezing weather wedged it into a sea of ice, with no escape.
The MV Akademik Shokalskiy, with 74 people aboard has been waiting for rescue by an ice-breaking ship, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said Wednesday.
On Friday night the passengers cheered and waved when they spotted the Chinese icebreaker ship, the Snow Dragon on the horizon.
“There’s a lot of relief among the team and a lot of happy faces,” said expedition leader Chris Turney.
Now the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, aka Snow Dragon, was just six nautical miles away from the Russian cruise ship when it became stuck as well, in heavy ice. Even the icebreaker could not break through the floe, the AMSA said Saturday.
“We have been waiting for better weather and ice conditions since last night,” Zhao Yanping, second captain of the Xue Long, told CNN. “Xue Long is not moving forward but we’re not stuck.”
Capt. Wang Jiangzhong of the Chinese ship was hoping that another ship – a French icebreaker that was scheduled to come assist – would be there soon, however, the AMSA called off the French ship’s mission.
Although the AMSA called off the French ship, a spokesperson said another icebreaker, the Australian Aurora Australis ship, is still en route and is expected to arrive late Sunday.
The Russian expedition ship has been stuck since Monday – in freezing conditions, but has been reported in good condition despite the circumstances.
On the Russian ship are scientists and passengers led by an Australian climate change professor who have used this time wisely and carried on with their expedition, as well as enjoying the local wildlife.
But they may have to wait another day or two to be freed, said Capt. Jiangzhong of the Snow Dragon.
“Right now we are waiting for winds to blow ice away so we can move closer,” Wang said. “The current ice condition is exceeding our capabilities to break through further.”
Pretty harsh conditions to have two ships trapped, one being a rescue ice breaker – but according to the Russian vessels captain, the crew had a “great Christmas” despite their situation, Turney told CNN.
“We’ve just kept the team busy,” he said.
Their mission in going to this icy ocean at the bottom of the Earth was to try to continue as well as update the scientific data taken by Douglas Mawson, an Australian scientist – collected in 1911.
The Russian expedition began on November 27 – their purpose was to measure the effects of climate change on the icy region. They made it to the second leg of the trip, until they got stuck, however, they have been able to work as planned, and hope to return to New Zealand by January 4th – if all goes well.
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