Antarctic Search and Rescue became a sensitive diplomatic issue for the world’s superpowers, with the giant US icebreaker Polar Star dispatched to the area to assist the stricken Russian and Chinese vessels in 2013.
The 52 scientists, tourists and journalists who sparked the rescue were yesterday on their way to the Casey base, leaving behind their stranded Russian vessel, MV Akademik Shokalskiy, and the ice-locked Chinese ship Xue Long that rescued them by helicopter.
Three icebreaking ships were hurried to reach the Russian vessel carrying the scientific expedition which is trapped by ice off Antarctica, with Australian authorities coordinating the rescue mission.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the MV Akademik Shokalskiy sent a distress message on to say it was stuck about 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont D’Urville.
“The ship was starting to head out (to the open ocean) when the blizzard hit,” expedition spokesman Alvin Stone said.
“It’s just stuck in ice. There’s no danger at all.”
The ship is in the Australian search and rescue region, prompting authorities to issue a broadcast to icebreaking vessels in the area and three with icebreaking capability have responded.
The three, which include the Australian Antarctic Division’s Aurora Australis, are en route to the area with a Chinese-flagged vessel expected to reach the trapped ship.
AMSA said the mission to reach the ship could be difficult.
“It’s quite windy and there could be some sort of blizzard conditions,” Andrea Hayward-Maher told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“Weather conditions, if they become difficult, could hinder the options that we have.
“But hopefully those icebreaking vessels will be able to get there as soon as they possibly can to render assistance.”
The group on board the Russian ship are scientists and tourists recreating the historic voyage of explorer Sir Douglas Mawson to Antarctica a century ago.
They have been replicating the scientific experiments his team conducted during the 1911-1914 Australian Antarctic Expedition – the pre-eminent scientific expedition of its time to South Polar regions.
It is not known whether the ship, which is stranded just three kilometres (two miles) from open ocean, will continue with its scientific experiments once it is freed or head back to New Zealand where it had been due to arrive on January 6.
Stone said the mood on board appeared to be normal as they waited for an icebreaker to reach them.
“They have been celebrating Christmas,” he said.
The Finnish-built ship, with 54 mostly Australian passengers and 20 mostly Russian crew aboard, is icebound 2,778 kilometres south of the Australian city of Hobart.
The authority said the Shokalskiy, which left for the Antarctic fringe from New Zealand last month, was not in any danger but that it would take at least two days for help to arrive.
The oceanographic research vessel was especially built for polar exploration. It has accommodation set aside for those who join as members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
Passages aboard the Shokalskiy and other polar explorers, can be booked through Expeditions Online, which is based in Tyreso, Sweden.
Local news agency AAP reported that the Shokalskiy is on a privately funded expedition to coincide with the reopening of a camp set up by Australian polar explorer Douglas Mawson.
Mawson’s camp had been inaccessible for many years because of an iceberg, it reported.
Russian tourist ship trapped by sea ice in Antarctic, rescue underway
A Russian ship carrying Australian scientists working to redo experiments that were part of Douglas Mawsons expedition has become wedged in Antarctic sea ice. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is coordinating a search and rescue for the ship after a distress message was sent by satellite to the Falmouth Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in the United Kingdom at 7.20am Tasmanian time.
There are 52 tourists, scientists and explorers and 22 crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which is on a Spirit of Mawson voyage along the edge of Antarctica.
They are in no immediate danger, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
“The ship is reinforced against ice and well adapted to the conditions,” said Alvin Stone, spokesman for voyage operators.
He said those on board were in fine spirits and were enjoying Christmas.
Mr Stone said the storm was well-timed as those on board has just returned from a 60km trek across pack ice in Antarctica.
Three ships with icebreaking capacity are on their way to help the vessel, although it was expected the fastest would take two days to reach the Akademik Shokalskiy.
AMSA spokeswoman Andrea Hayward-Maher said the Australia Antarctic Vessel Aurora Australis, a Chinese ship and a third vessel were on their way to the area, just 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d’Urville.
“We have to send more than one ship because some might be able to get there faster, and there are different kinds of icebreakers, it’s best to have options available,’’ Ms Andrea Hayward-Maher said.
There were no immediate emergencies facing the passengers, which include members of the “Spirit of Mawson – the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-14’’.
About 12 scientists were believed to be on board carrying out many of the same experiments done during the expedition led by Douglas Mawson.
Two people left the ship to reach Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison in Antarctica, which had been isolated for several years because of an iceberg blocking the entrance to Commonwealth Bay.
The two-person team was a joint operation between the Mawson’s Huts Foundation and the AAD, which work to conserve Mawson’s Huts.
Antarctic tourists spend Christmas icebound
Tourists aboard a polar research vessel will spend Christmas awaiting rescue, after got stuck in Antarctic ice, Australian officials said.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority dispatched three ships after receiving a distress call from the Russian-registered ship Wednesday.
The Finnish-built MV Akademik Shokalskiy, with about 50 passengers and 20 crew aboard, is icebound 2,778 kilometres south of the Australian city of Hobart.
Officials said the ship was not in danger but that it would take at least two days for help to arrive.
The ice-strengthened oceanographic research vessel built for polar exploration has 26 berths set aside for tourists to join as members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
The tourists booked through Expeditions Online, which is based in Tyreso, Sweden.
Read More Voice of Russia, Courier Mail, AFP,
The 2015 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference is a one-day conference held on the 6th May 2015 at Jupiters Gold Coast.
The 2015 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference is hosted in-conjunction with the Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference at the Gold Coast.
Presentations are welcome on the Search and Rescue in difficult and remote locations like Antarctic are welcome For more information please visit the website
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