News National Snow impedes polar rescue

Snow impedes polar rescue

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· Cracks appear in ice around ship

UPDATE Dozens of passengers aboard a ship stuck in the Antarctic face a sixth day of waiting as an Australian vessel battles difficult conditions to reach them.

The 74 scientists, explorers and tourists have been stuck on the Russian research ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, about 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart, since Christmas Eve.

The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis has been sent to the Akademik Shokalskiy’s aid, and was due to reach the vessel late on Sunday (AEDT), but was hampered by difficult conditions.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman Lisa Martin said the Aurora Australis should reach the Akademic Shokalskiy later on Monday.

“It’s slowly making its way there – weather conditions are not great, with snow showers and pretty poor visibility,” she told AAP.

Two icebreakers have already given up on efforts to push through the thick and dangerous ice floes to free the trapped ship.

It is the last ship in the area that will be able to help.

If it can’t battle through the ice, authorities may consider ferrying the trapped passengers to safety by helicopter.

The Akademik Shokalskiy sent a distress call on Christmas Day after becoming trapped in heavy sea ice.

The ship had been undertaking the Spirit of Mawson voyage, which is retracing Sir Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition.

If the icebreaker can’t battle through the ice, AMSA says a second option may be to consider ferrying trapped passengers with a helicopter.

The ship had been undertaking the Spirit of Mawson voyage, which is retracing Sir Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition.

Professor Chris Turney of the University of NSW is leading the expedition, consisting of scientists, explorers and enthusiasts undertaking climate research.

He insisted during several interviews with international media outlets that everyone was in good spirits despite the ordeal.

But retired Brisbane teacher Kayleen Lawson, aboard the stricken vessel as a tourist, said frustration was building.

“It was meant to be the trip of a lifetime, and it still is … but it’s turning out a little differently to what I expected,” Ms Lawson told News Corp during a satellite phone interview.

The Aurora icebreaker is rated at being able to push through ice slightly deeper than one metre thick.

China’s Snow Dragon icebreaker, which came within six and a half nautical miles of the stuck ship before turning back out of safety fears, is standing by in case its helicopter will be needed.