Scientists and tourists stranded on a ship off Antarctica are waiting for weather conditions to improve so they can be evacuated.
A helicopter on board the nearby Chinese Xue Long icebreaker will be used to evacuate 52 of the 74 people who have been stranded on the Akademik Shokalskiy since Christmas Eve when it became stuck in deep pack ice.
But on Wednesday morning, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said rain and winds of 20 to 30 knots meant the helicopter could not fly.
“Rescue situation in Antarctic remains unchanged,” AMSA tweeted on Wednesday morning.
It also said it had contacted the Akademik Shokalskiy and all on board were safe and well.
— Chris Turney (@ProfChrisTurney) December 31, 2013
Overnight, those stranded posted videos of themselves celebrating New Year’s Eve off Antarctica.
In one, they perform a song about their plight, while in a second they sing Auld Lang Syne as they stamp down the snow near the ship in preparation for the arrival of a rescue helicopter.
Expedition leader Professor Chris Turney on Wednesday tweeted that it was warm, wet and windy.
“Poor visibility. Unlikely we’re flying this morning,” he wrote.
The decision to resort to a helicopter rescue was made after freezing winds and snow showers prompted the Aurora Australis icebreaker to retreat.
Thick ice had earlier prevented both the Xue Long and a French icebreaker from reaching the stranded vessel.
The ship’s crew will remain on board in the hope changing weather conditions will allow it to sail out of the ice field.
The 74 people on board the ship, which is retracing Sir Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic expedition and conducting scientific research, have been trapped since Christmas Eve.
Two attempts to reach the vessel have failed due to adverse weather and solid sea ice.