Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition, A Chinese helicopter arrives to rescue some of the 52 passengers trapped for more than a week on the icebound Russian research ship MV Akademik Shokalskiyin , Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. The helicopter rescued all 52 passengers from the research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice, 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, since Christmas Eve after weather conditions finally cleared enough for the operation Thursday. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition, Jessica Fitzpatrick) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, ONE TIME USE ONLY, NO ARCHIVES; NO SALES
Rescued Antarctic passengers resume journey home
First Published Jan 04 2014 03:21 pm • Last Updated Jan 04 2014 03:21 pm

Canberra, Australia • An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic resumed its journey home on Saturday, leaving behind another two icebreakers trapped in pack ice.

The Aurora Australis will continue its interrupted resupply mission to Australia’s Antarctic base Casey Station before returning to the Australian island state of Tasmania in mid-January with the rescued scientists, journalists and tourists.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

It had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese ship’s helicopter on Thursday plucked the passengers from their stranded Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy and carried them to an ice floe near the Australian ship. But on Friday afternoon, the crew of the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or Snow Dragon, that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship’s ability to move through the ice.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue, told the Aurora to stay in the area in case help was needed. Under international conventions observed by most countries, ships’ crews are obliged to take part in such rescues and the owners carry the costs.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday that one of its cutters, the Polar Star, is responding to a Jan. 3 request from Australia, Russia and China to assist the two trapped ships. The Polar Star was cutting short its planned stop in Sydney, Australia, to assist the Russian and Chinese ships because they may not be able to free themselves from the ice.

"Our highest priority is safety of life at sea, which is why we are assisting in breaking a navigational path for both of these vessels." Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, the Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander, said in a statement released by the Coast Guard after passengers had been successfully evacuated from the Russian ship. "We are always ready and duty bound to render assistance in one of the most remote and harsh environments on the face of the globe."

The Polar Star left its homeport of Seattle in early December to take part in one of its main missions, Operation Deep Freeze, to break a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to resupply and refuel the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station on Ross Island. The Polar Star is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only active heavy polar ice breaker.

On Saturday, AMSA said the Aurora was allowed to continue and that the Chinese ship was safe assistance.

Andrew Peacock, an Australian doctor and photographer who was rescued from the Russian ship, said his fellow passengers had been frustrated by the news Friday that their journey home had been delayed by another potential rescue operation.

"My feeling, and those of others I believe, today is one of relief at finally having a concrete plan for how and when we can return to loved ones, family and friends," Peacock said in an email from the Aurora.


story continues below
story continues below

The Chinese ship remained stuck several kilometers (miles) from the Russian icebreaker Akademik Shokalskiy, from which the passengers were rescued. The Russian ship has been immobile since Christmas Eve.

A reporter for China’s official Xinhua News Agency who is aboard the Snow Dragon, Zhang Jiansong, said an iceberg appeared overnight and blocked the ship’s return route. He said the ship would again try to find a way out, possibly as early as Monday.

Zhang said late Saturday that the 101 crew members on board the vessel were safe and had plenty of supplies.

An Antarctic tourism operator is holding out hope that the Russian icebreaker will be free in time to take 48 sightseers on a cruise of Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

Heritage Expeditions has leased the Akademik Shokalskiy to depart New Zealand for the cruise on Jan. 17.

Heritage Expeditions general manager David Bowen said he would give the ship until Monday to break free from the pack ice before considering "other options."

The Aurora had offloaded only 70 percent of its cargo at Casey last month before it was diverted to the rescue.

It will now deliver the remaining 30 percent, which includes scientific equipment vital to research projects scheduled to be carried out during the narrow window of the Antarctic summer.

Australian Antarctic Division acting director Jason Mundy said the rescue had stretched resources for the summer research program, which he hoped to recoup from the Russian ship’s insurer.

In addition to the disruption to Australia’s scientific program, the rescue will cost Australian taxpayers 400,000 Australian dollars ($358,000), Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s spokesman John O’Doherty said.

———

Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney and Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.