Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rescue of stranded Antarctic ship stalls--shades of Shackleton!

Terra Daily via AFP: A Chinese icebreaker has failed to break through thick ice to free a ship carrying scientists and tourists stranded off Antarctica, forcing Australian authorities to look at other rescue options Saturday. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), which is coordinating the rescue of the Russian passenger ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, said the icebreaker came within six-and-a-half nautical miles of the ship but had to stop.

"The Chinese vessel unfortunately encountered some heavy ice that it's not capable of breaking through," AMSA spokeswoman Andrea Hayward-Maher told AFP. "So unfortunately it won't be able to continue through to the Akademik Shokalskiy. It's making its way back."

"The rescue... unfortunately has stalled."  The Russian ship, with 74 people on board, has been trapped in ice about 100 nautical miles east of the French base Dumont d'Urville since Tuesday.

The Chinese vessel came tantalisingly close to the trapped ship, with those on board reporting they could see it in the distance, but was forced to turn back to open sea once it realised it could not break through.

"At the horizon in the east I can see the Chinese icebreaker that we were hoping was going to be here within hours cutting us a path out of this place but it just couldn't make it," science journalist Andrew Luck-Baker onboard the Russian ship told the BBC.

It slowed down to about half a knot and has decided to go back to where the sea begins and wait for the arrival of an Australian icebreaker. The idea now is for the two of them to come together in parallel towards us, cutting a wider path."

Three vessels with icebreaking capability, including Australia's Antarctic resupply ship Aurora Australis and French vessel L'Astrolabe, were ordered to the area to attempt to rescue the vessel once the distress signal was sent....

Frank Hurley's photograph of the Endurance being crushed by the ice in Antarctica, 1915 

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