The Chinese ship that freed dozens of people from a Russian vessel stricken in the Antarctic has itself become trapped by ice.
The Xue Long on Friday night informed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) that their ship had become beset by thick ice, but said the ship and crew were not in danger and had food supplies to last several weeks.
The Chinese ship’s helicopter was used in a seven-hour operation to transfer 52 people from the ice-stricken Akademik Shokalskiy to the Australian ship Aurora Australis on Thursday.
A statement from AMSA on Saturday said the Aurora Australis had been placed on standby to assist the Xue Long, but had since been cleared to continue as planned to Casey Station on the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The Akademik Shokalskiy and Xue Long are able to assist each other if necessary, AMSA said.
Scientists and tourists had been stuck on the Akademik Shokalskiy since Christmas Eve, after a blizzard pushed sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place.
The group was moved to the Aurora Australis in five flights of up to 12 passengers, with each return journey being about 14 nautical miles.
Earlier icebreaking attempts to reach the ship failed because of the thickness of the ice.