Antarctic Ship Rescue: Rescue Of Stranded Russian Vessel Akademik Shokalskiy Delayed By Weather

Xue Long
The view from the first icebreaker, Xue Long, as it attempted to free the stranded Russian ship in Antarctica. Australian Maritime Safety Authority

The MV Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian expedition vessel carrying 74 passengers, has been trapped in ice since Christmas and a third attempt to free the ship was delayed due to poor weather conditions. The area around the vessel had winds up to 30 knots (34 miles per hour), and snow showers, which decreased visibility.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority launched the Aurora Australis icebreaker in an attempt to break through the ice and free the Akademik Shokalskiy. The icebreaker was set to reach the stranded vessel at Midnight Australian Eastern Daylight Time. A previous attempt by the Chinese icebreaker, Xue Long, also known as Snow Dragon, failed to reach the ship, which is stranded 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.

In its first update on the rescue mission, the marine safety authority said that the Aurora Australis was within 10 nautical miles of the ship but had to call off the mission due to poor visibility. “RCC Australia is in regular contact with the Akademik Shokalskiy and the 74 people on board are reported to remain safe and well with supplies for several weeks,” the authority said in a statement

Colin Cosier and Nicky Phillips, journalists aboard the Aurora Australis, discussed the rescue attempt and shared video of the icebreaker in action in the Sydney Morning Herald. Cosier also shared photos of ice covering the deck of the ship on Twitter.

On Christmas, the Akademik Shokalskiy sent a distress signal after it became trapped in ice as thick as three meters (9 feet). The vessel is carrying students and researchers, led by Chris Turney, a professor from the University of New South Wales. As part of the Spirit of Mawson, the trip was slated to follow the footsteps of the famed Antarctic explorer. The expedition was in its second leg and was updating data collected by Mawson as well as analyzing the effects of climate change on the subantarctic islands.

As a result of the poor weather, the Aurora Australis returned to open waters and the the maritime safety authority hasn't ruled out another rescue attempt by the icebreaker. If the ship can't break through, the Xue Long is equipped with a helicopter. A video of life aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy, courtesy of Turney, can be viewed below.

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